The pandemic revealed two kinds of leaders
Mike Morrison, Ph.D.
Creating Meaningful Change
June 10, 2022
The pandemic revealed two kinds of leaders.
The first saw the pandemic as a storm to weather. Mostly they “reacted” to the challenge. They did things like putting in new policies and procedures for working remotely. Basically, they did what good managers do. They stabilized the situation and did their best to maximize outcomes before things could return to normal.
The second type of leader soon realized this was more than just a major storm to survive. It was a change in the weather pattern. In other words, things would be different . . . forever. There would be no return to normal. They actually began to see the good news in this realization.
They not only learned a ton about the productivity benefits of remote work but discovered a range of revelations that would not only impact how they would lead but who they would become as a person. They learned how work-life balance, mental health and well-being were not just nice add-ons but essential to a thriving work culture. They discovered that “corporate speak” (talking like a good and responsible parent) is no substitute for the kind of empathic dialogue needed when people are at risk. Most importantly they learned how change is inevitable but meaningful change is not.
As the pandemic moved into a more manageable state, they didn’t rush back to the previous normal or way of doing things. Intuitively, these leaders knew that too much learning; adaptation to new practices at both home and work; and personal growth occurred during the last two years. Simply commanding people back to the office full time would simply not fly (and wouldn’t make good business sense). Other previous workplace practices would need a careful review as well.
We know too much . . . and grew too much . . . to go back in time.
Sure, we all see the benefits of blending in more time for face-to-face connections – while reaping the benefits of a “gathering place” that feels special . . . and can facilitate the kind of collaboration needed in our work cultures. But deep down these leaders knew that all stakeholders would benefit in a thoughtful re-shaping of new workplace principles and practices.
Let’s think about this as leaders. Whenever any kind of change occurs we naturally seek to find the meaning behind it. The core question . . . . asked in three different ways is:
What does this mean?
For example, a senior leader reveals a new strategy for their organization that has survived the pandemic. The three questions we “always” ask . . . also define the essence of what it means to create meaning.
Question One: What does this mean . . . does it make sense? Help me to understand fully the “why” behind it.
Question Two: What does this mean . . . is it purposeful? Does it bring significance to what we do and who we are?
Question Three: What does this mean . . to me personally? Is this something that inspires me . . . worthy of my commitment? Will it help me grow toward my potential?
People need to positively answer all three questions to create the potential for meaningful change. Great leaders know how to do this. They are meaning-makers. They operate from a meaning mindset that not only sees potential in a pandemic – but in the people they serve . . . who more than anything . . . want to make a difference.
Mike Morrison, Ph.D.
Co-Author, Creating Meaningful Change, The Heart of Leadership (launching August 2022)