Posted On: Monday, April 20, 2020
Inspiration in a crisis comes from vulnerability and resilience. COVID-19 has increased leaders’ challenges in creating more engagement. Finding inspiration in a pandemic is an opportunity for leaders to rally their troops and help each other get through these difficult times.
Leaders Reduce Harm
What we’re experiencing highlights the importance of community and how we safeguard it. The dispute over the United States’ pandemic readiness underscores that reducing harm is always a leadership issue. So many questions. How will hospitals under siege, facing safety and ethical dilemmas, be supported in saving lives? What ways will the public sector, non-profit and corporate leaders lead through their challenges? How will increasing unemployment be addressed? (In the last two weeks of March we saw the loss of 10 million jobs.) And, how will we lead ourselves in handling the emotional toll and financial challenges?
The answers to these questions weigh on us all. And this is where vulnerability and resilience create a path forward.
Uniting Vulnerability and Resilience
We can be resilient and feel vulnerable at the same time. Challenges like COVID-19 are all about the union of vulnerability and resilience. Who would have thought the simple act of grocery shopping could make us feel so exposed even with gloves, face masks and social distancing?
Researcher Brene Brown, in Dare to Lead, defines vulnerability as emotions “we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” Moments like now. However, she writes that we often numb those feelings because we think vulnerability equals weakness. It’s the opposite. Brown’s research indicates that vulnerability is “having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” This is a prerequisite for effective leadership. She describes vulnerability, in her 2012 TED Talk, as the “birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
We need resilience to get to innovation and creativity; it’s a mindset, a choice. Resilience asks that we take an inventory of strengths we can count on that helped move us through past challenges. It invites our opening ourselves to receive support and inspiration from others to fuel us. It pushes past our inner critic so we don’t self-sabotage and deplete ourselves. If we’re willing, it can dislodge perfectionism, enabling us to show up as we are and be enough. Not letting what happens to us define us is one way resilience shows up, according to 10 Traits of Emotionally Resilient People.
Vulnerability and resilience come together when we face a crisis like the impact of COVID-19 on our own health, if we test positive. (Here’s how one CEO is handling it.) Or how we handle the impact on our family, business, employees or community. It’s much easier when we have faith in ourselves. If faith is temporarily shaken, coaching ourselves, or being coached, walks us through a process of more constructive insight.
Inspiration is also key. Ideas help move us forward. We can consider examples of people we admire who handled tough times, following their lead to jump-start us. We already know there’s more than one right answer to solving a problem. Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s description of confidence has always inspired me. She says it’s the expectation of a positive outcome and the belief you’ll do all you can to make it happen. That approach reinforces our individual sense of purpose. Finding inspiration in a pandemic reinforces organizational purpose.
Vulnerability and resilience contribute to our strength. They fuel empathy for ourselves and others, increasing our ability to authentically connect with others. Both bolster our ability to give ourselves support, as well as support others. We become more curious, open to being inspired because, even unconsciously, we’re looking for it.
And when we look for inspiration, we generally find it.
Related issues I’ve written about recently:
Gael O’Brien provided excellent counsel that led Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America and me to take the right steps to improve our workplace integrity during a difficult time in the company’s history. Her values-based approach and ability to ask the right questions enable her to contribute effectively to top management in any industry.