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Leading during COVID: 7 Principles to Guide You.

You are a leader in an organization and want to know how to best use your position to support your people and your organization, while remaining balanced and resourced yourself. The COVID crisis is requiring a particular flavor of leadership know-how outlined in the seven principles below. You can implement these immediately.

  1. Double down on your organization’s values. Your values hopefully drove your organization’s actions before; now aligning your actions with your values is even more critical. This is an opportunity to show your dedication to these values when the chips are down. Let’s take an example. Equity is one of your organization’s values. Right now the folks in your organization who do manufacturing are working double-time, while other folks in your organization are holed up at home, in relative comfort and security. This is inequitable. You have an opportunity to call this out and take action. This will lead to deeper respect by your employees and certainty that your values will be implemented irrespective of circumstance.

  2. Provide Certainty. There’s so much uncertainty right now. Be the antidote to that: offer certainty about communication, your company’s finances, and the stability of positions in your organization. Be clear about where you have stakes in the ground. In leadership vacuums (i.e., the absence of national leadership), people are looking to their state, local, and corporate leaders. People will look back on this time and remember your leadership. (See the SCARF model from the NeuroLeadership Institute; C=certainty)

  3. Prioritize relationships and connection. Your staff are lonely and stressed. Help them connect in meaningful ways with each other and with you. Examples include playing together, using connecting games to help you get to know each other deeply, taking collective lunch breaks, or prioritizing co-working time. Now is the time to be visible. Record a video of you in your home. Talk about the shifts you’ve made at home, and what your challenges are. Lead with vulnerability and authenticity (see Brene Brown).

  4. Don’t be a jerk. People will remember how you acted during this time of need. Prioritize connection, relationships, and transparency. We are not our best selves when we are stressed, triggered, have low emotional reserves, and when uncertainty is high and our regular routines that ground us are absent. In sum, the water we are all swimming in right now. Practice self-regulation before you respond in a reactive way: Take a deep breath, ask for some time, and take space to ground yourself. Remember that your people are having fear-based reactions and the same challenges with self-regulation. Give them some leeway.

  5. Practice Self-care. Take care of yourself. Consider balancing self-care in the mind, body, and spirit/heart domains. Self-care should happen every day. Stockpiling self-care for the weekend doesn’t work as well as “dosing” it. (See Richard Boyatzis’s work). Help your people take care of themselves. That might mean subsidizing wellness activities, offering wellness programming virtually, sharing with them the importance of self-care. Proper self-care enables us to bring our best selves to our work and our families, and fosters our physical and mental health.

  6. Be Flexible. Play to people’s strengths, offer flexible work hours, acknowledge that you don’t expect people to work a regular day. Many folks are flooded with creativity right now…mine ideas from your people. For most of us, this crisis has brought our priorities into focus. Seize this opportunity to re-examine your organization’s priorities right now.

  7. Take the Long-view. People are counting on you to balance the short view, emergent situations, and the longer view. How will the business fair once things return to “normal?” What lessons from this crisis will you take with you? How will you create a new vision and priorities based on what your experience has been?

This is an exciting and daunting time to be a leader. Reach out for support, thought partnership, encouragement, and ideas. You can book a free appointment by emailing Most of all, take care of yourself!

Rebecca Arnold, Founder and Principal, Root Coaching & Consulting, LLC, a coaching firm that supports people to transform into the best versions of themselves; amplify their impact in the world; and thrive personally and professionally.

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