Lessons of 2020

“History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” David McCullough

I don’t think we’ll find many people who disagree with the notion that 2020 has been a truly historic year. To say that it has been transformational is probably an understatement.  We could go on and on about what’s different now, how our lives have changed, and how many of us see the future as much more unpredictable than we did only a year ago.

What are the lessons of 2020?Every aspect of our lives has been affected: family, work, education, religion, sports, personal interaction, patterns of behavior – our sense of normalcy has been permanently disrupted.  Now the only certainty seems to be uncertainty.

For us as leaders, this has created a whole new set of challenges.  Many of us now lead in a “hybrid world” where we seek to influence others in many non-traditional ways. (I don’t know about you, but a little less than 12 months ago, I thought ‘Zoom’ was a speed, not a venue.) The only people wearing masks back then seemed to be those who were conducting a bank robbery!

So here we are, whether in person or on the computer screen, in a dramatically different world.  But we still need dedicated, focused leadership… perhaps now more than ever.

What are the leadership lessons of our 2020 journey? Here are four that stand out for me:

  1. Communication is not optional. It’s far more than just sharing information.  It’s active listening, with (as Stephen Covey so eloquently put it) the intent to understand rather than just reply.  And use the backbrief for clarity; don’t just think they “get it.”
  2. Model curiosity. By asking thoughtful questions and paying attention to the answers, you can demonstrate caring – about people, teams, and organizations.
  3. Be the Standard. It’s essential that we “walk the talk” every day, wherever we are, in whatever framework we’re operating.  People need leaders they can trust, all the time.
  4. Learn as a matter of routine. Approach every task with a learning attitude.  Conduct daily self-audits and after-action reviews. Don’t just move on; follow up with specific actions to build upon what you’ve learned.

These four lessons of 2020 predate this year, of course. The disruption of the past year didn’t create them. But this year has highlighted their importance in building meaningful relationships during these times of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, and frustration.  We need to be the calm in the chaos – where real leadership lives… and we’ll get through this.

Enjoy the journey!

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