The Cycle of a Pandemic: An opportunity for leaders

The cycle of a pandemic – for most of us something we have never experienced – will have devastating effects on our country and our communities for years to come.  Leaders have the opportunity to find the silver lining of it all. And what really matters most.

This month is the first month in six years I haven’t gotten on a plane. 

My life’s normal rhythm – including monthly travel to meet face-to-face with HR partners and coaching clients – has ground to a halt. Instead, I’m perched at my home computer, watching the park I have lived next to for most of two decades fill with families. The afternoon light is filtering through my window as neighbors I barely recognize take in the fading sun with kids in tow. I experience a feeling that has been showing up more and more frequently these days, a feeling that I never expected to feel during a pandemic: gratitude. 

We are in the midst of a great rebalancing. Not just of the stock market, and our impact on the environment, but of people’s lives. In 2009, post-economic crash, we had a moment to rebalance, to move away from our incessant drive to create more money, a shift away from products and consumption and wealth generation as the center of our lives. But when the market bounced back, we rebounded with an intensity and ferocity for wealth and growth at a speed that was even more extreme than before. 

While of course, I wish we could bypass the devastation that has already been created by this pandemic – sickness, death, grief, homelessness, inequity and unemployment among others – I also know that there is also a silver lining emerging. For the leaders we work with, it’s providing a precious moment to take stock: To assess what matters most and quietly realign inner priorities around the answers that are emerging. 

And what are leaders finding that really matters most? They’re finding that family matters. Health matters. Education matters. Service and helping others matters. Community and connection matters. These may sound obvious and elementary but – finally standing stock still for the first time in months or years – the preciousness of these basic values has never been more profound. People are refocusing with clarity and adaptability on being of service, on living with less and appreciating the simple joys that drove human existence for so long: preparing food, getting your hands in soil, composing a song, walking in the park, reaching out to a friend. 

I for one, am encouraged by the creativity that is coming forward from leaders facing these new conditions. And while adversity reveals genius, prosperity can conceal it, so I’m learning to look for evidence that our collective genius is rising to meet this challenge. 

We know that this cycle will not last forever. The opportunity of this moment – to turn inwards, to source from self and others, to re-prioritize, to get creative – will evaporate as surely as the sun will rise again and we will be carried away in the tide of another upswing into growth and prosperity. And so I encourage you to take in this moment with curiosity and presence and yes, even gratitude, and answer one of the questions that really matters: How will you allow this experience to change you – and the rest of your world – for the better?

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