In early March 2020, business was good. If I asked you to evaluate your leadership culture, you would have said “We’re doing great, Errol!” Everyone was making money, jobs were plentiful, and you were confident in your ability to lead. There was no reason to question or evaluate what you were doing from a leadership perspective. And then it happened: COVID-19, economic dump, political craziness, riots, children not going to school, social shaming and virtue signaling abound, et al.
The question is, how much did your leadership change from March to today? If your leadership changed drastically, will it remain the same when things return to normal (and things will return to normal), or will you go back to pre-March leadership style?
What Is Leadership Culture?
When I discuss leadership culture, I define it simply as the things you DO, not the labels you put on the things you do. And, if you cannot define the things you do then the only culture you have is one of randomness. For example, when I ask coaching clients to describe the leadership culture of their team I often hear answers like “We have a culture of excellence.” But when I drill down and ask to give me specific examples of how they practice their culture of excellence I am often met with confusion or silence – “Errol, we just operate with excellence!” This is when I explain, excellence may merely be the label put on the culture of a team. Every leader should be able to identify specific behaviors that make up the culture of their team.
Leadership In Times of Stress and Chaos
In times of stress and chaos, you go to what you know. You go to what you instinctively do. In the context of your leadership culture, what you did post March 2020 was what you went to. How did it turn out for you, your team, your organization, or your family? Did you drastically change the way you did things, or were your actions generally the same?
Don’t confuse the market specific changes you had to make recently with the WAY you made the changes. When I refer to your leadership culture being made up of the things you do, it refers to behaviors, not market specific changes. Perhaps you had to lay people off. That doesn’t make up your culture. My question for you is how did you go about that decision? Was it fueled by fear and uncertainty? Or, was it addressed calmly and methodically? HOW you go about doing the things you do makes a huge difference, especially in leadership. And HOW you go about doing the things you do is what makes up your culture.
Time For Reflection
The point here is to get you to reflect as a leader. Consider what changed inside of you when things went sideways in March 2020. What happened to your leadership culture through these past months of chaos and crisis? Were the changes for the better? Whatever the answer is, it defines you as a leader for better or for worse. In times of stress and chaos you go to what you know. Did you know panic, selfishness, self-righteousness, blame, and doubt? Or, did you know calm, methodical, giving, understanding, and thoughtful and decisive action?
A good leadership culture propels you during the good times and sustains you during the hard times. Which way did you go? The good news is that if you went in a direction you don’t like, you have the opportunity to make a change right now. So, make the change if you need to because there is no better time than the present.
Errol Doebler is the founder of Leader 193, a leadership consulting firm and the author of The Process, Art, and Science of Leadership. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Leader 193 to realize his passion of empowering great leaders and better human beings. Errol provides executive coaching, keynote speaking, and corporate retreats to individuals and teams across the world.