Imagining Post-Pandemic Leadership Development

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders have shared how they’ve been addressing the concerns of their businesses and asked for feedback on how they are responding during a time of crisis. Few leaders (or the rest of us, for that matter) have had opportunities to be tested as we are now, and insightful individuals have the wisdom to step back and ask, ”How we doing?”

In discussions with these leaders, their feedback has almost always been energizing, positive, enlightening and affirming.

For example, one global manufacturing chief executive officer described how being in the epicenter of the tempest was calming. He found the challenge of crisis to be invigorating, within his own wheelhouse and within the capabilities of the team he had built. Being so inspired allowed him to increase his communications and his visibility so that he could inspire others. He had navigated professional and personal crises in the past and realized the opportunities afforded by stepping in, stepping up and not languishing in worry.

The CEO of a membership association shared that she had to mobilize her team to think about new ways to serve their members. She created a tumult to get everyone riled up, and the result has been a slew of podcasts, editorials, webinars, resources and personal contacts, all of which are helping the association’s members feel more secure and stable in this volatile time.

A central theme that emerged from these discussions was the recognition of how important this experience has been as a learning opportunity for leaders at all levels. Faced with a daunting circumstance, leaders’ ability to be flexible, open-minded and willing to try different actions was vital. They tried out new approaches to determine what works, what doesn’t, and why, or they recognized the benefits of leveraging or even enhancing an existing strength. All of this critical skills-building occurred unintentionally, without the structure of a formal leadership development process.

These observations highlight the fact that, after the pandemic, the way we develop leaders will change, along with many other practices and processes. The insights also reinforced the changes that some forward-thinking organizations had already begun to implement prior to the pandemic to retool their approach to leadership development.

Check out my article, co-authored with Richard Citrin, on Training Industry to discover what we learned about leadership development from the pandemic

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