Learn how the best leaders in the world are navigating through uncertain times. Listen to the full conversation below with Dr. Michael Gervais.
We want to be the best version of ourselves in high-pressure, high-stakes moments in life. But stress and pressure can often produce the opposite result. Rather than gracefully and nimbly adjusting to meet the demands of our environment, we “choke off” access to our internal resources when we need them most. We don’t rise to the occasion; we fall to the level of our training.
We can train and condition the mind much like we train our body, but we need to frontload the work. If we master what’s within our control, live with passion, and have clarity of purpose we can better persevere during difficult times.
Sharpening our mindset skills – calm, confidence, deep focus, the ability to trust oneself in any moment – enables us to eloquently respond to the unfolding, unpredictable unknown.
Preparation is the foundation of the ability to effectively respond. As Abe Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the ax.”
Our mind is often distracted by a steady stream of thoughts, emotions, and sensations, out of which we create narratives to make sense of our lives. In the future. In the past. About who’s to blame. About what we should have done. About what could go wrong. The stories we tell ourselves get more amplified when we are in distress.
Our most powerful response in the midst of crisis is to be present, so we can see through the distortion or distraction and identify the truth of what is happening. From that place we can respond, rather than react.
Strong leadership is often confused with invulnerability, which is thinly disguised as self-protection. Leaders protect others, not themselves. The ability to be open and honest is real strength. During crisis, leaders communicate directly and honestly about the challenges that lie ahead, while providing a road map to navigate through them.
Rather than relying on thought patterns and behaviors, that may have been responsible for past success, leaders look to identify and create opportunities in new landscapes. Leaders attune to their inner experience, the experience of others, and anchor to their mission. They stay connected to their larger purpose and values.
Thinking toward the future and approaching it with optimism and innovation will carry teams forward. Especially in times of uncertainty, it’s critical to uncover the opportunities for growth and innovation. Resilience is not only about being able to overcome the unexpected; it is the ability to bounce back quickly from challenges and thrive in new conditions.
We are in a unique moment in world history. From the devastating loss of life to the financial fallout to the closing of borders, businesses, industries and schools, we are collectively confronted by a reality few of us could have ever imagined.
Decision-making leans on precedents and guiding principles, but how do leaders react when there are no precedents to follow?
I had a series of conversations with friends inside our community to better understand the approach of those who effectively lead during moments of great stress, strain and uncertainty. I wanted to distill insights about leadership while we are still in the middle of the crisis, while it’s raw.
During crisis, leaders are called upon to rely on their preparation, respond in the moment, and locate the opportunity in a future that has not yet arrived. And they have to do these all at once with limited information and the well-being of others hanging in the balance.
I’m honored to be doing this project in partnership with Microsoft and Compete to Create. We hope you appreciate the applied insights of these leaders as much as we do.
Michael Gervais, PhD.