March 20, 2020

Leadership is not cancelled.

It started small. News from across the world. A mysterious virus. Coming ever closer. Then the precautions, the cancellations. An event here. A concert there. It grew bigger. Sporting events cancelled. Schools cancelled. Hanging out with friends cancelled. Work as we knew it. Cancelled.

But life. Not cancelled.

Leadership. Definitely not cancelled.

We are called upon as leaders right now to lead. To provide leadership in an environment of near constant chaos and fear. We weren’t trained for this. There was no class, “Leadership in a Global Pandemic 101.” As with many leadership challenges, we learn as we do.

A key role for us as leaders right now is to remain calm. Keep others calm. Keep them safe. Our job is to create psychological safety at a time when there is a perception of little physical safety. Isolate. Quarantine. Words that inspire a range of negative emotions. And fear.

However, we can’t problem solve from a place of fear. If our brain continuously releases cortisol (one of the stress hormones), it can lead to emotional and physical health issues. We can’t be creative and innovative when coming from a place of anxiety. To tap into our pre-frontal cortex, our executive functions, we need to find a place of calm.

To find calm, we need to choose new thoughts. Because our thoughts create our emotions. And our emotions produce our actions.

Thoughts to consider:
• I am doing everything I can to keep my family and employees safe
• I will seek to understand how my employees are feeling
• I will choose compassion today
• I can choose to be calm
• I can be confident when I don’t have all the answers
• I can create value in the world right now for those who need it most
• I can shift my leadership style based on needs as they exist today
• I can do my part for our company and community

Each of these thoughts could produce more positive or neutral emotions. We can then focus on the actions that will move our employees, organizations and communities forward.

Keeping our employees focused on the value they provide to customers is more critical now than ever. We can reduce fear by creating focus and action. By giving people power to create, support, serve and enable others.

It starts with us, as leaders. To show up centered and calm. It starts with choosing our thoughts. On purpose.