Leading with Strength and Clarity during COVID-19

An open letter to leaders during challenging times

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Dear Leaders,

I know right now is a scary time filled with huge, even life changing decisions. You are trying to figure out how to keep your businesses running while also taking care of your people. There is a collective fear over the changes in the economy and so many unanswered questions. As a psychologist and executive coach, I know this is hard and frightening. I also know that you wouldn’t be in this leadership position right now if you weren’t capable of not just dealing with this, but of learning how to thrive in these new circumstances.

The most important thing you can do right now is to take care of yourself so that you can stay calm and clearheaded through this all. If you don’t, you will miss hidden opportunities and creative solutions. In fact, did you know that when we are under stress we actually lose peripheral vision? We actually get physical, not just mental tunnel vision. So, taking the time for you to de-stress is not selfish or a waste of time, but an absolute necessity to your solution-focused leadership.

Now, I know as a leader taking care of yourself right now is probably the last thing on your list because you are more concerned about your business and the people you lead than yourself. This is part of what makes you a great leader, but what will make you the best leader is doing the things that keep you calm and clearheaded right now so that you are taking “right action” instead of “re-action.”

This means taking time each day to exercise and properly fuel your body. It means getting some fresh air and stepping away to clear your mind. If you are a meditator, go meditate. If you’re not, try it. Make a list of all the things that help you feel calm, centered, and clearheaded. Keep that list with you to refer to when you get overwhelmed and forget everything on it (because you will). Don’t forget to actually use that FitBit or Apple Watch to take those 3 deep breaths at the top of the hour. You have to reset your nervous system and get it out of fight or flight throughout the day if you want to be the calm in the eye of the storm and not the tornado.

Once you have done that you can start consulting with your team of experts and gathering information. But be sure to pause, digest the information and turn inward so that your decisions are coming from that centered place and not the place of emotional reaction. I know you want your decision to be based on the highest good for all, not fear and panic over worst case scenarios. In order to do that you will also want to limit the influx of information that you receive to only trusted resources and advisors so that you do not become overwhelmed, distracted, or inundated with bad news or misinformation.

In an unprecedented time like this, now more than ever you need access to your innovative thinking. To do this, you need to keep your stress levels down as much as possible. You need time to be in silence, to reflect and even to create in order to stimulate those areas of the brain responsible for creativity. This will help you see things in a new way. Your solutions today do not lie in how things have always been done. The world has thrown us a curveball, but there are hidden opportunities in this curve ball, if you allow them. A chance to pivot your business, your team, your leadership to a whole new level, if you stay open-minded, clear headed, thoughtful and creative. Trust your instincts. Your years of leadership have prepared you for this. And trust your inner circle. Together you will do what is right and you may even come out better than before.

If you need help implementing any of these ideas or training your team, please feel free to contact me for personalized Executive Coaching or virtual corporate training for you and your teams.


Dr. Donna Marino

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