Looking back on 2020, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the year went by in a bit of a blur. To make better sense of everything that happened over the last 12 months, I’ve found it helpful to break the year down into four distinct stages.
During the first stage we were starting to hear more and more news about a potential health crisis that was spreading across the globe. As leaders, this stage was one of anticipation when we were called to put on our thinking caps and plan for a future with a wide variety of unknown variables at play.
In the second stage we were in the thick of things. With lockdown restrictions at their strictest and the realities of the situation setting in, we had to handle new client demands, make sure that our teams were properly set up to work from home and come up with strategies to stay connected even though we were being called to stay apart. Now, different elements of the plan that we put in place during stage one were becoming a reality and it became important for us to put our intentions into action. There was a fair amount of adjusting that needed to take place because we had to manage variables we didn’t expect and mitigate challenges we hadn’t anticipated.
The third stage took place several months into the pandemic. By this time, we’d been dealing with these unprecedented circumstances for quite a while and started settling into a new rhythm. But now is the time when we were all battling pandemic fatigue. This was an extremely important time for leaders because we had to motivate people and keep everyone going, especially when morale was low. During stage three, good leaders would have consistently driven a message of hope and reassured people that we can get through this.
Today, we’re dealing with stage four. This is possibly one of the hardest stages because we all thought we’d be at the finish line by now but it looks like the race is going to be a lot longer than we expected. Sure, there is a light at the end of the tunnel but there is still a long was to go. In this way, stage four is almost like stage one all over again because leaders need to use this time at the end of the year to look forward and start thinking about how to handle what might be coming next.
Leading when the path is unclear
So, what are the key lessons I’ve learned through all this? Firstly, if you’re a leader that likes certainty, you’ve got a massive uphill battle ahead of you and the path is unclear. The world is incredibly complex right now and things seem to change every day. Good leaders will develop their vision despite the uncertainty. By planning for different eventualities, you’re better prepared to tackle whatever comes your way. It’s not about being certain, it’s about having various options that you can take if things don’t go according to plan.
Similarly, it’s important to be consistent when it comes to your plans and intentions. Obviously, you need to adapt as your circumstances change but just because your path has shifted slightly doesn’t mean that your ultimate goal needs to change.
People need strong leaders now more so than ever. As such, leaders need to be beacons of hope. Hope that this difficult time will pass. If you want people to follow you and to stick by you when times are tough, it’s so important to set a good example. And when/if you fumble, you need to be honest and open about the mistakes you’ve made and about how you plan to move forward.
2020 has been a difficult year and the challenges are set to continue into 2021. But I’m confident that with the right vision, a steadfast strategy and hope we can overcome whatever lies ahead. This year, I’ve written extensively about leadership and about my leadership journey. If you would like to access these insights, visit the Nebula blog or consider subscribing to our monthly newsletter by completing the form below.