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As I’ve mentioned in previous writings, there is nothing more frustrating than to observe one put in a position to lead only to have them NOT! They lay down on the job. More accurately, when the time comes to deliver, they very publicly demonstrate they have no game. We’ve had countless examples of this over the last two pandemic years. In observing our industry and for that matter, our country, it is clear that leadership, in the year ahead will be more important than ever. Not only in our organizations but, in our families, communities, and life in general. Leaders must lead; to do so, you need what we Chicagoans call “street cred.” To secure such credibility, which is central to leadership, you must possess and routinely demonstrate the four Cs: Conviction, Compassion, Character and Confidence as in crisis and recovery, all will be tested. A leader must be realistic in assessing a situation but must also be confident, and optimistic about the course of action. I routinely discuss such in guiding doctoral students research design for their dissertation. They are required to model the quantitative data to support their research hypothesis and frame such with the typical best case, worst case, most probable case. Heads up, any case where the “most probable” lies directly in the middle of the best and worst is a lazy effort and thus an unacceptable proposal. Quantitative analysis is mathematically skewed by probability. One of the observations that troubled me greatly through this two-year pandemic was the over-politicized narrative from the onset. I think it was inappropriate, downright deplorable and, in fact, unethical for leaders to present only the very worst-case day after day. Should the worst-case really be the narrative when the “widget” in the model is human life! Unnerving the masses, or frankly, scaring the hell out of the very people you were elected, or appointed, to lead is troubling.
As a leader, you must walk the plant, visit the shop, get out into the general office. When doing so all eyes are upon you. They are sizing you up, assessing your attitude, your persona, your facial expressions, your four Cs. They are searching for your confidence and subsequently their own comfort. The more comfortable, the more confident, the more productive. Leaders encounter bad traffic … too bad. Fight with your spouse that morning … who cares. Cold Starbucks … boohoo. You need to carry yourself with the utmost of confidence and optimism. In crises, keep in mind Shakespeare’s insight that “this too shall pass.” With leadership, you must manage not only the finances but the optics as well. Rest assured they are equally important. For many of us, in the early days of COVID-19, we were deemed essential employers. Your office was in all likelihood remoted, but your plants were operating. As a leader, you need to be visible to your troops. Churchill famously noted that World War II wasn’t won in the foxhole.
All this is the awareness that our team members, those you have led these last two years, have had the snot kicked out of them. It’s battle fatigue at its worst. They have been tested and challenged time and again. Will I contract COVID? Will I bring it to my family? Will my employer survive? Will I still have a job? Who will homeschool or coordinate remote learning for my children? What about care for elderly parents? And on, and on, and on. The baggage they have carried has gotten increasingly heavy. We are all suffering from battle fatigue and a bit of the civilian version of post-traumatic stress syndrome, whatever that might be. When is all this nonsense going to end? When do we return to normal? What will that new normal look like? And how will it affect me?
It is increasingly clear that our colleagues, our friends, our kids and our families are significantly battered and can’t take much more. Now on the eve of the pandemic’s conclusion, we quickly launched hyperinflation and war in the Ukraine with Russia territory. I believe it can best be described that we have been held captive as the unwilling participants in a protracted game of real-life whack-a-mole. Every single time it appears we are out of the hole and see daylight, WHAM! Then wham, and wham, and wham. In the year ahead, let’s be the leaders that we are expected to be. Let us demonstrate our conviction, confidence, character and, above all else, compassion. We have successfully navigated, but a price has been paid. Here’s to better days ahead … and let us forge ahead together.
“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”
— African Proverb