Now is the time for true champion leaders to lean in and shine. This is how great leaders build back after defeat.
There is no question that over the past year, we have faced unique challenges. For the first time, the playing fields became even. We all experienced something we had never dealt with before — a pandemic that shut us down. We were asked to walk into the unknown (together) and were tasked with keeping ourselves and our families safe while at the same time keeping our teams healthy, connected, and employed.
“Rise too the Occasion.”
As leaders, we were asked to do all the above while keeping a positive outlook on a future we couldn’t guarantee for ourselves or others. But, that is what leaders do. Like great athletes, they rise to the occasion. Champion leaders recreate their vision in real-time while letting everybody around them know: “I’m here for you, no matter what.”
As leaders, we are also tasked with rebuilding. Like a sports team, we must regroup and retool after a tough season. We must be open to change and be excited about what lies ahead. Today, we start that rebuilding process — our companies, our corporate culture, and our mental health. Now is the time for true champion leaders to lean in and shine. This is how great leaders build back after defeat:
“The Past, Embrace What Is Ahead.”
As leaders, many of us may want to go back to business as usual. Yet, business as usual may not have been ideal. The pandemic shook things up — some things for the good, some things for the bad. Winners focus on the good and adapt. Was working from the office every day the best solution? The only way? Maybe not. What if you took things that worked from the pandemic and put them into your new business playbook? What if you studied your people’s work output and preferences and adopted the practices that had the highest productivity yields? This is how we recognize the past and embrace the future — by changing to what works best.
“The Great Ones Always Adjust.”
Early in my Major League Baseball coaching career, a great manager told me, “Kid, remember, the great ones always adjust. Baseball and life are nothing more than games of adjustment.” That thought stuck with me and couldn’t have proven more right this past year. After all, what plan ever goes exactly to plan? Not many. Because our plans don’t go according to plan, the results can sometimes be better than expected. How many times does your plan fail, yet you still end up in a better place?
“Redefine the Unknown.”
The unknown is usually associated with the negative. Yet, some of our greatest moments and victories happen in the unknown. We seek knowledge, learn new skills, and make those ever-so-critical decisions and pivots because of the unknown. This past season, we were all faced with the unknown (a pandemic), and as a result, many of us revamped processes, operating procedures, and trimmed areas that were running fat. It was the unknown that made many companies and leaders stronger and better.
“Breathe Belief Into Your People.”
Although some people thrived over the last year, enjoying the freedoms of working from home, many felt alone and lost a degree of hope and personal bearing around the question: “Why?” As we rebuild, we must not just rebuild companies, but more importantly, people. As champion leaders, we must breathe belief, optimism, and a can-do attitude into our people. Like a ballplayer in a slump, a great coach realizes the importance of instilling belief into a player and reminding them of their capabilities.
“Individuals Make Up Teams.”
Working under the great Yankees manager Joe Torre in my early coaching days, I quickly realized how important it is to understand that individuals make up a team. A team is a group of people with unique needs, goals, and ways of doing things. Each team member also has personal struggles, strengths, and weaknesses — that all need to be addressed one-on-one. If a leader hopes for a prosperous future, it begins with spending time with your people and prioritizing these one-on-one interactions. Your time and attention can accelerate an individual’s performance.
“Identifying The Real Issues.”
With more than a year to examine virtually every aspect of their business, many leaders realized that the pandemic exposed their company’s weakest links — from too little cash reserves to identifying overlapping jobs among employees to having too much office space. The pandemic can be credited for creating greater economic efficiencies. The best solutions often present themselves when leaders are forced to look at things they rarely make time to look at. The most precious resource the pandemic gave us was more time: time to improve ourselves, our people, and companies.
A real leader is precisely that — real. They wear their hearts on their sleeves, and everyone around them is thankful for this. In a time when leaders appear to be a dime a dozen based on their LinkedIn profiles, the leader that rises above is the one who meets their people where they are. Real leaders run toward conflict and pain, toward the team members filled with fear, doubt, and insecurity. A burning desire to lift people will demonstrate to others that you possess outstanding leadership — and the greatest gift you could give another is a gift that will transcend any crisis, pandemic, or virus. Real leaders always step up and step in.