Leading in Hard Times 2020

June 11, 2020
You probably have received a near tsunami of advice about how best to lead during the pandemic. Much of the counsel likely carries value. I offer two thoughts for your consideration as you look at a likely long period of ‘what comes next’.
First, we have experienced multiple traumas: health, economic, and societal. They are connected, of course, the pandemic precipitating the economic and both making social disparities more visible even before the gut-wrenching view of yet another African-American dying at the hands of police. We need not so much to put the pieces back together as to reconfigure them. Hard times necessitating hard work over an extended period of time.
Research and history provide guidance about leading in hard times, including hard times that persist. The most recent Leadership Digest for the Wharton Center for Leadership and Change Management included an article by me featuring a number of those best practices as they appear in the tale of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton and his who led his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1916. Sunken ship, cutoff from outside contact, limited supplies, and over 2 years of Antarctic conditions notwithstanding, Shackleton led his party, everyone of them, out alive.
Second, as noted, the work ahead will take a while and in many ways it will amount to the work of change. Consideration of V-shaped economic recoveries and predictions of return to some pre-pandemic normal continue to seem far-fetched. No sprint this, perhaps not even a marathon, but rather an ultra-marathon or adventure race. Or, to use another metaphor, what lies ahead amounts to a long trip down a whitewater river.  Our world may, on occasion, get a bit less frothy, but it will remain a whitewater river for a long time to come. My book with Robert Gunther, Your Job Survival Guide, offers guidance about working and living, indeed about just being, in a world dominated by the whitewater of change for as far as downriver as one can see. You might find it or some of the video clips (see below) based on it of use for yourself and for those you lead.
Be well. Stay well.
Paddle on (and as usual, pass this newsletter on as you may see fit),