There is so much happening right now it is hard to keep ahead of things. One thing that is for sure is that we must drop the term or the belief that we will be returning to the way things were before. When we cling to the past, we lose sight of what could be; we miss opportunities, innovative ideas, and problems which will sink us if we don’t address them. Change has accelerated in 2020 and will probably continue into 2021 and beyond. As such, leaders need to be ruthless in their assessment of their leadership, and what is working and what is getting in the way.
Here are a few tips to keep yourself on track and point during these chaotic times:
- Cling to your meaning and purpose
Right now, there are days that you feel like a feather in the wind, getting blown here and there as the next new thing arises. This is where meaning and purpose come in. This is your anchor, keeping you from straying from what matters most (and avoiding burnout). Answering the questions – What am I trying to create here? What is the difference I am hoping to make in the world? What is the movement I am trying to lead” – help define your meaning and purpose. Write it down. Bring yourself back to your purpose when considering where to go and what to take on. Ask yourself, “does this contribute or detract from my path?”
- Lean into your advisors
We have some evidence that going with our gut instincts may not produce the best decision and outcomes. We see leaders that rely on their gut instincts to disastrous results. Today, in these times of crisis, we all feel – to varying degrees – overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, and fearful. Naturally, we will want to seek out ways to return things to the way they were. That is how our brains are wired. But it means we cannot trust our gut instincts to be our best advisor. This is a new world that will require verve and courage to meet. Instead of trusting your unreliable gut instincts, seek out and listen to a varied group of advisors. Look for diverse opinions and perspectives with an open mind. Look for the “yes” in their ideas so you can test your thinking. Check your strong tendency to “go with my gut.” Ask for feedback on your ideas to see how they fare out in the world.
- Update and revise
The common wisdom is that leaders should be steady and stay the course. I would argue that leaders do need to provide steadiness and solidness while simultaneously being open to taking in new information, revising, adjusting, and modifying. The analogy of the airplane’s automation pilot system comes to mind. While the destination is set as the plane hurtles through the sky, the exact path shifts. Be like an airplane and take in new information and adjust. Otherwise, leaders run the risk of arriving at the destination with staff battered and bruised, and the proverbial plane unable to take another flight.
Finally, of course, keep letting go of what was and reaching for what will be. Assume that we are being presented with a gift and opportunity, and go from there.
Office Hours with Lynne Gilliland
Lynne wants to chat with readers on the phone. If you’re interested in talking to her about leading in a crisis, challenges in the INGO sector or related topics – really anything that’s on your mind – please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lynne Gilliland, M.S. CPCC, began her career in socioeconomic development for women in Latin America and many years ago transitioned to transforming leaders and teams. Her unwavering focus and expertise has contributed to many organizations, teams, and leaders scaling and achieving their missions. The results of Lynne’s work with leaders, teams, and entire systems demonstrates the effectiveness of her approach. Clients include the World Bank and USAID to INGOs and for-profit organizations. Lynne is also the creator, host, and founder of the podcast Lessons From Leaders.
When not working, Lynne paints landscapes and portraits, goes hiking or biking, and spends time with family in Maryland and California.