Leading in Times of a Pandemic – How to Walk the Line Between the Light and the Dark

If you are anything like me, you probably feel extraordinarily optimistic and upbeat at one point in the day, only to find yourself swept up by an overwhelming rush of anxiety, rapidly descending into despair, and finally, re-emerging onto the surface, feeling ok again.

These are extremely strange and unsettling times. I’m guessing that no matter what you’ve been through in life, nothing has prepared you for the current level of uncertainty and the rollercoaster of emotions you experience daily.

The tricky thing with being a leader or an entrepreneur in times like these is that while you have no clear answers, your team, your family and your friends are looking to you for guidance.

In the context of work, I’ve largely seen two approaches from leaders:

  1. Telling teams that everything will be fine, that the leader is “positive” and “certain” that the team will pull through this without a scratch.
  2. Conveying uncertainty, anxiety, and even panic.

If you witnessed someone use one of these approaches, you know that they are cringe-worthy, even scary.

The first is dishonest, inauthentic, and insensitive. No one can know anything for sure these days, and if anything is certain, it’s that nobody will get to the other side unaffected by this pandemic in some way.

The second approach is irresponsible. It causes even more, fear and more anxiety and makes people spin out of control.

As Brené Brown said in an Instagram post recently, this pandemic is a massive experiment in vulnerability.

But while, at times, we all feel fear and uncertainty, we don’t have to be scary when we are scared.

As leaders, entrepreneurs, parents, or friends – we can choose to be authentic and honest, empathetic and kind.

As Michael Bungay-Stanier shares in this CultureLab Postcard, it’s imperative that we all find our own way of walking the line between the light and the dark.

There is no guidebook on how to do this. It will be different for you and for me because… well, we are different. But here’s what I learned in the past month of living in lockdown here in Italy:

When we are in integrity and when we speak and act on our deepest, most authentic truth, it touches people in a way that nothing else can.

No amount of rhetoric will ever replace speaking from the heart.

Truth, the one with capital T, brings people comfort. When we hear it, we feel connected, we feel soothed, reassured and ready for another ride on this crazy rollercoaster.

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