what you can learn from the pandemic

How to Learn from 2020 and Lead the Way in 2021

Out with The Old and In with The New: How to learn from last year and lead the way in 2021
By Dr. Sandi Coyne-Gilbert, MBA, DM

The year 2020 was a year of loss and lessons. As people worldwide had to fluctuate and form new foundations and plans, nearly nothing previously proposed came to fruition. However, 2020, in all its daunting tests and trials, did help us better prepare for the days ahead.

Now approaching the spring season in 2021, a time for reflection and renewal, we must look back on the burdens of 2020 so that we can grow from the grim circumstances, grasp hold of hope, and reach beyond.

Below are five recommendations leaders can embrace for a resilient and rewarding 2021.

  1. Leaders must learn to let go, live, and lead with intention. If we learned anything from the year that just passed, it’s that we can’t control everything. Often, we can’t control anything, but we do have the ability to pause, pivot, and keep people, including ourselves, on the path to prosperity. Intention provides the impetus for leaders to move forward, even when those steps are a bit unsteady. We must re-establish our commitment to those who depend on our example. By acknowledging one another and letting people know they are not alone, we remind others that we are all in this together.
  2. Check-in with yourself and your team, so no one checks out. The burdens of burnout as a result of excessive remote work is all too real under the current circumstances. Job duties are juggling in the air with at-home responsibilities, and it’s just a matter of time before the tipping point proves problematic. Stopping to remind your team to set reasonable goals strategizes group success for the short term and long haul — ultimately increasing the well-being of the people we work alongside.
  3. Authentic actions inspire real responses. In Viktor Frankl’s incredible book Man’s Search for Meaning, he shared, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Actively listening, engaging, and acknowledging how people respond to situations promote a genuine sense of living in the moment and learning from one another — and recognizing another’s point of view and not responding reactively can create real connections.
  4. Integrity is essential; let no one be invisible! If you are a relationship-driven person, working alone from home and only seeing people on Zoom could have a harmful impact. No matter our personality or preferences, we all typically want to be “seen,” with our contributions appreciated and recognized. Without this crucial sense of connection, people can feel a lack of purpose and support. Select a means to provide a safe space to make people feel visible and valued. Even when we know something is problematic for a team member, we must dig in and find out how to help.
  5. Portray a world past the pandemic. Leaders must paint a powerful picture to create a new reality for their teams. No one wants to feel like they can be easily replaced, and a leader’s support indicates a sense of security in their people. Talking with your team about what you see moving forward and how you intend to use the “spark” you see in an individual is paramount. Of course, you might not see a spark in everyone, but as leaders, we must ask ourselves, is there no spark there, or have I not taken the time to look?

Although we cannot change what happened this past year, we can control our commitment to connecting with others. In 2021, in a conscious effort to make human moments happen, we must remember the power of being present and the gift of genuinely listening to one another and living in the moment.

As leaders, we must remain steady and keep integrity intact no matter how stifled spirits may be. Forging ahead into the future, it is imperative we invite others to do good, be grateful for the small things as we advance, and make an intentional effort to inspire and impact the lives of those around us.

Learn more about earning your Master’s in Organizational Leadership at Goodwin University.