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What Covid Taught Us About Leading with Grace

In a harsh and hard world, we can show empathy and lead with kindness.

Thomas Rey/Unsplash
As we return to the office and travel, we should reflect on what lessons we learned from the upheaval of the last year.
Source: Thomas Rey/Unsplash

The onset of Covid-19 and the following year and a half were a dark, scary, and isolating time for all of us. We were terrified by the unknown, the instability of our job, fear for the health and safety of our loved ones and ourselves, the confusion about working remotely and Zoom schooling our children. We were trying to balance all this while rivaling Martha Stewart with our cooking and domestic creativity, keeping our homes glistening, and channeling our inner camp director to create fun and creative activities for our family. It was exhausting, terrifying, and isolating.

We were working in a black hole, not knowing what shoe would drop next. We learned to juggle the unexpected forest fires, civil unrest, contested elections, and multiple other glass balls while keeping our cool and maintaining our figure.

Just as vaccines became readily available and the world started to open again, we are thrown another curveball, namely the Delta variant.

So many emotions have filled and drained us, but how do we describe them? Grace Notes by John Baldoni seems to do a perfect job of affixing words to our conflicting scary and hopeful thoughts. The entire book, 70 pages in total, fits in my purse. In short poems, Baldoni ascribed the perfect words to capture our emotions. The book, like the pandemic, starts in a world of darkness, but every page describes our challenge, acceptance, and future light. Empathy, resilience, and hope are overarching themes expressed in short bursts of prose poetry.

Rather than remind us of the pain of the early days of Covid, Grace Notes reminds the reader of their strength and resilience. It is also a call to action to reevaluate what we have, what we lost, and what we gained. Finally, Baldoni encourages us, as we rebuild, to have a more purposeful existence and inclusive culture at work.

As many return to the office and begin to travel, we see that we did bend but not break during Covid. We had our resilience tested over and over again. As a result, we have understood our limitations and recognized that it is acceptable to be vulnerable.

The journey to Grace Notes is an interesting one. It started with a series of videos by the author who interviewed leaders about coping during the pandemic. The transcripts became the foundation for the book. The recurring themes of humility, empathy, resilience, and vulnerability are played on repeat.

Learning how to lead during a pandemic is not a class generally taught in business school. Leaders had to invoke a careful balance of calm and confidence as they enacted their crisis leadership. They had to look out for their organization and families with equal focus and stamina. They had to listen intently, lead fiercely, and work diligently to ensure that everyone in the company does not just survive but comes through this crisis thriving.

As we turn a corner, this is our time to reflect, respond, reevaluate and take action. We can be inclusive, assertive, thoughtful, and kind. Grace Notes is a reminder of how we can do it well.

More from Ruth Gotian Ed.D., M.S.
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