There is no playbook. There are no best practices. The speed, flow, and quality of information is unprecedented. There is no wise older sage that has experienced this before to go to for wisdom. There are fewer programmed decisions to manage, and non-programmed decisions require leadership.  

Never in the history of our planet has there been a singular event that impacted the health of every human being when information about the event flowed across every continent in real time.  What are leaders supposed to do? What if every leader became the leader they all aspire to be when those leaders are at their best? Our families, our co-workers, our teams, organizations, and our businesses need us to show up as the very best version of ourselves.

It really is OK to be afraid. Fear is a human emotion. Choosing to allow that fear to incapacitate us is often a choice that we make. Sometimes we are afraid of what might happen or afraid of what happened in the past. Those thoughts seem very real to us but the circumstances we are living in right now are different so, those thoughts playing on a continuous loop in our heads may not be true now. Those fears can paralyze us and prevent us from making the courageous and innovative decisions that are needed in a time of crisis. 

Here are a few examples of leaders who made several highly innovative and courageous decisions – holding true to their values while positioning their organizations to thrive on the other side of this crisis. Yes, there will be the other side. We may not know exactly what the other side will look like, but we have the ability to decide how we want to show up when we get there.

Marcia is the President of a Healthcare Institution. She has been highly successful in keeping the institution afloat during times of decreasing enrollment and rising costs. When the pandemic started she did all of the right things initially, but then fear set in. She lost sight of why she chose her profession and instead became fixated on all of the things that could possibly go wrong. She was feeling overwhelmed and found herself going without sleep. She made a number of fear based decisions. She convinced herself that her organization was going to fail, and that she was not good enough to lead her organization through this crisis.

She got into her profession because of a deep passion for people and a strong desire to help patients. When she realized that many of her thoughts were not based on facts, she was free to have new thoughts that were not based on fear.  Her new thought was, “I want to make a difference and I care deeply about my colleagues and my patients”. Those new thoughts made her feel powerful and freed her to make several innovative decisions from a place of freedom and choice .  This new thought also freed her to make decisions about her students options for learning and about creative ways to provide patient care using technology. She chose how she wanted to show up now and how she wanted to position her organization after the crisis. 

Fred is the President of a community bank. He and his team were very concerned about their personal health and that of their employees and customers. They were also concerned as to how this crisis would impact their business. Fred came up with a new thought centered around what his customers needed from their bank right now. His new thought was, “Our customers are probably afraid and they need us to be there for them”.   This thought made him feel like what he did mattered. Fred implored his team to reach out to their customers, who were mostly small business and restaurant owners and let them know that we are here for them if they need anything. He and his team called their customers. Their customers were very grateful and appreciative. The bankers reassured their customers and offered them options.  

Jeff is a leader in a marketing organization. Because of the crisis he now works from home with three small kids. His routine is completely changed. The order and calm that he enjoyed while at the office does not exist at home. His initial thought was that he was going to lose his mind and that he would never get any work done. Those thoughts made him feel like locking himself in a room and banging his head against the wall because he couldn’t concentrate. Jeff chose a different thought – he chose to think about this as a special time that he got to spend with his family and how grateful he had a job that allowed him to work from home. This made Jeff feel really motivated and grateful which resulted in him becoming extremely productive. 

Juanita owns a sandwich shop. Patrons are not allowed to sit and eat in the restaurant during this crisis. She was very concerned about having to lay off her employees and was convinced that she was going to go out of business. Juanita confronted her fears and made a decision to let people know through social media that they were open for take out and delivery business.  She made the decision to give away free sandwiches to first responders and others who had to go to work during this crisis. Coaching helped her come up with a new thought which led her to taking some bold action steps. Juanita thought, “Everyone loves a great sandwich and I make great sandwiches”. That made her feel great which led her to take those bold steps. She will be remembered on the other side of this crisis by both her employees and by all of the customers she served during this crisis. 

We are going to get through this crisis. And, there is going to be life on the other side.  What can you do to live out your values and make a difference in the lives of others during this crisis?  How do you want to show up during this crisis? How do you want your organization, team, department or self to show up on the other side? Working with a leadership coach can help all of us declutter our thoughts and view the events through a different lens – a lens that is not clouded by fear. 

Wes Becton is the Co-founder and CEO of George Washington Street Partners which is an executive leadership, career, and performance coaching and consulting company. Wes is a former Infantry Officer and graduate of the Army’s Ranger School. Wes has extensive executive leadership and governance experience in a wide range of industries including banking, education and healthcare. Wes is the former Board Chair of Northeastern Illinois University and currently serves on the Boards of Elmhurst College and Pan American Bank. Wes earned degrees from George Washington University (BA International Affairs) and Lewis University (MBA Health Care Administration). Wes is also a member of the International Coach Federation. Wes is a frequent speaker and lecturer on the topics of leadership and diversity.