3 Mindset Shifts Great Leaders Are Making During the Pandemic


This post is by Jenni Catron. Jenni is a leading voice on how to create world-class organizational culture. Jenni is the Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group and is a member of my  Speaking/Consulting Team. 

By Jenni Catron

Today’s leadership environment is demanding something different from you.

How you led historically doesn’t have the same impact.

The pace of change around you is dizzying and the expectation to keep up with it all is debilitating.

Our entire way of life has been upended by a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and escalated racial tension. The emotional resilience of our society is being tested at every level.

To lead well in this season is going to require something different from you.

Results from an extensive multi-phase research project revealed startling statistics in how radically the values of consumers have shifted as a result of COVID-19.

Pre-pandemic consumers responded to marketing that promised success, influence, and status. (Remember how your social media feeds were flooded with experts telling you how to be as successful as they are?)

Within days of the impact of the pandemic, consumer values completely shifted to a desire for support, safety, and trust.

Support, safety, and trust became our guiding concerns, seemingly overnight.

What this report reveals are the values that are most influencing people in this season. For leaders to be effective they must know what people value and they must adjust their leadership to meet people where their values intersect real life.

People don’t care about your influence if you’re not using that influence to support them.

They don’t need you to be the hero. They need to know if you’ll help.

They are not concerned about your success. They need to feel confident they can trust you.

Catalytic moments like this require a conscientious response from us as leaders.

While I’m intrigued by this seismic value shift reflected in this research report, what I’m more interested in is what it means for us as leaders. It indicates that how we think as leaders must also shift to match the values of those we lead. It gives us greater insight into what is needed from us to connect with people and lead them forward.

Today’s culture is demanding a different leader. A leader who has the emotional intelligence to lead himself or herself well, to navigate the critical moments for your organization, and the ability to discern the emotional current of the team and the culture.

I believe there are three important perspectives that leaders need to embrace throughout the leadership journey that will equip them to think differently and lead better. These perspective shifts were always essential for leaders but the complexity of rapid change makes them especially critical right now.

Perspective #1: You Quit Caring About “What’s In It For You”

Why do you want to lead?

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

Let’s be honest, sometimes leading others feels more like herding cats than guiding sheep.

Leadership is challenging in the best of circumstances. It’s excruciating in crisis.

Now more than ever you need to be clear about why you’re leading.

The role of the leader is to serve others, to identify the gifts of your team, and deploy them in pursuit of a shared goal.

Many of us aspire to leadership for the perceived sense of power or influence it will give us.

This likely is not a conscious aspiration, but positions of leadership come with greater authority and responsibility. The sexy side of authority and responsibility is power and influence.

If we’re not conscious of this, we’re likely to underestimate the true cost of leadership.

Leadership is not about you or for you. It’s not for your success, your praise, or your future. Leadership is all about others.

If we don’t have this perspective right, we’ll never fully embrace the sacred and sacrificial calling of leadership.

Your “why” is the foundation for everything you do as a leader. When our “why” is clear it gives us the courage to keep leading through the challenging days.

Have you asked yourself lately why you’re leading? It’s critical you take a pause and do that now. Do the heart check. If your answer isn’t to serve, guide, protect, and lead others, it’s time to reevaluate your motive and get clear about the purpose of leadership.

It’s not about you.

Perspective #2: It’s Not About You, But It Starts With You.

It always starts with the leader. If we want to impact the effectiveness of our organization, it starts with us. What do we need to do differently to lead better and influence change?

This is the self-leadership that you’ve heard me reference so often. You must lead yourself well to lead others better. When you’ve done the self-investigation to revisit and redetermine your “why,” then you can do the further work of asking yourself, “How?” How do you want to lead?

And how you lead others begins with how you lead yourself.

You can’t take those you lead somewhere that you aren’t willing to go yourself.

Do you need to spend time and energy developing self-awareness, empathy and relational equity? Do you need to challenge yourself on the “hard skills” of your work through reading and trainings? Are you willing to go first with courage to face the challenges and uncertainties of this season?

This humble and sacrificial posture lays a foundation upon which you can build a culture of collaboration, innovation and health.

It starts with you.

Perspective #3: Your Greatest Work Is Through Others.

While our individualistic society shouts at us to get ahead and to compete, to be self-protective and territorial, what’s actually true is that your greatest fulfillment as a leader will come from seeing others thrive.

As the old adage goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I’ll be honest that, at times, I’m tempted to simply want to go fast. There have been days when I’ve convinced myself that my best course of action is to go ahead and do things on my own, knowing they will be done well and done completely. My sense is that you’ve had those days too.

But giving in to that temptation steals from those we lead the opportunity to grow, to discover leadership gifts and problem-solving capabilities in themselves that might otherwise lay dormant. Worse yet, it allows pride to get in the way of the type of collaboration that sharpens an idea and improves a process in such a way that produces a remarkable outcome…dare I say a BETTER outcome?

What you do to call out and nurture the skills and talents of your team, to provide clarity and guardrails for them to pursue goals, and to create the safety of a risk-friendly, growth-mindset environment, will ultimately lead to the measure of your impact.

Pour into others. Allow space for them to make mistakes and learn from them. Invite them to opportunities they don’t think they are ready for.

Pay attention to the unique needs of the season. You haven’t been here before. Different seasons and stages of organizational life require different strengths from us as leaders and teams. Your ability to adjust, to focus on the structure of your team and the potential pivots necessary to rise to current challenges is paramount.

And just in case you need to hear it: you have what it takes. You’re doing the work. You’re in the position where you find yourself for a sacred reason. Step forward with confidence in these perspectives.​​