The Marshall Goldsmith quotation “The major challenge of most executives is not understanding the practice of leadership – it is practicing their understanding of leadership.” has always resonated with me and probably even moreso in this current period. 

Edward Hess in his article “The #1 Leadership Skill for the COVID 19 War – Inner Peace”, describes the pandemic as “a health crisis; an economic crisis; a social crisis; a political crisis; and a geopolitical crisis. It is a crisis dominated by unknowns and huge downsides. It is an existential crisis — life or death”  

COVID 19 is not the beginning of our volatile, uncertain, and constantly changing environment. We have been living in an increasingly Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous environment since the late eighties. COVID 19 represents the extreme and full embodiment of VUCA – #covidisvucapersonified

 Hess continues, COVID (like other VUCA events) “generates personal fears, insecurities, and stress, all of which can inhibit high-quality thinking, decision making, and effective collaboration, which is mission-critical in such times.”  COVID provides a major opportunity therefore for leaders to develop the required competencies to be:

  • Fully present – mindful
  • Be aware of and manage their own emotions – emotionally intelligent
  • Be aware of the emotions of others and manage relationships – emotionally intelligent

Hess lists some of the required competencies for leaders in these times as:

–      be the best thinker they can be

–      be the best compassionate listener they can be

–      be the best collaborator that they can be

–      manage their fears, insecurities, and ego

–      being open to hyper-learning … the continuous ability to learn, unlearn and relearn by adapting to the reality of the world as it evolves overcoming the natural human reflexive way of being that values efficiency, speed, confirmation of what one believes,

–      the affirmation of one’s ego and cohesiveness of one’s mental models.

None of the above competencies is essentially new.  In essence, Hess has articulated the competencies associated with leaders going beyond knowledge and becoming fully intelligent – Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally and Spiritually. 

VUCA times requires the transition of our knowledge and understanding of relevant and effective leadership in times of crisis, into who we BECOME. This transition can only occur through intentionality and mindful practice.

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