While I will admit to being one of the few naysayers when it seemed everyone else on the planet thought our tough times would magically end on December 31st, 2020, I have to admit that I’m shocked at the continuation of mayhem and madness.

I was truly hoping that we had finished using the words “unprecedented” and “pivot.” Yet here we are again. The questions I’ve been asking myself for months and again today is “how do leaders hold it together right now?” And the corollary “how do I hold it together right now?” And of course the more growth-oriented question of “how do leaders lead into 2021?”

Admitting Limitations

This will be a short post. I’m too exhausted to research other ideas on the topic right now. I hope others share resources in the comments to help out a fellow traveler. How do I know I’m not the only exhausted leader out there? Well I can see it in their faces over video calls. Some are being vulnerable and admitting it out loud.

I recently asked a fellow executive director why she was going along with an idea proposed by her Board that didn’t appear to be in her or the organization’s best interest. She admitted her exhaustion. She was ready to fight another day, but I appreciated her honesty about the reality many of us are facing at work and home.

I do my best to share my own human limitations with my team, ever cognizant that everything is a heavy lift right now. The current reality feels like it is calling for super-human powers for the critical work of strategic planning, radical decision-making, and relationship building all over video call, text, Skype and email. When I share my limitations, it allows others to share too and more authentically live out our organizational message that we’re all in this together.

Using Positive Statements

Short positive statements are a helpful support when I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. So I’ve created some helpful prompts for myself to guide me when I’m tired and maybe not on my best behavior. I have three phrases written on the white board of my home office that I’m using to keep me centered right now:




I look at these three phrases multiple times during the day. First I have to apply them to myself. Once I do that, I am slightly better at applying them in my interactions with others. I have to have them in front of me because none of these three ways of being are my natural inclination. I’m excited to write more on the topic of asking more questions for another post. Getting better at kindness and patience takes other kind of work for me.

In the midst of these times that are both chaotic and opportune, I need to be softer with myself and others. There’s a reason I’m reaching for the softest clothes in my closet every day. If I am, then I know others must be too.

See the Opportunity

Here are some of the opportunities I see in front of me and my organization right now:

  • Continuous redefinition of what it means to “go back to work” when that idea is a misnomer not only for our current reality but also for what work will look like in the future. The opportunity is in the redefinition for both the short and long term.
  • Changing my perspective. We’ve all had the discomfiting experience of someone sitting in “our chair” – literal or imagined. When I go back into the office, I want the set-up to be different. I don’t want to sit in my same chair facing the same direction at the same desk and risk falling into doing things the same way. The opportunity is for a dramatic shift in approach.
  • I’ve been reminding myself that ambiguity leads to creativity. In general, it’s hard for humans to live in an ambiguous state for too long. We are natural problem-solvers. The pandemic and political situation is shape-shifting more than our brains can process. The opportunity is that this unprecedented ambiguity can lead to unprecedented creativity.

Leverage Lead Time

Last thought for today on some of the opportunities of these times is the recognition of the long lead time of some decisions right now. We went from thinking this would all be over after a couple of weeks of lockdown to wondering when we’ll be able to be inside at work without a mask. Now that we know that some of what we’re experiencing may last through much of 2021 I can phase and pace some decisions more thoughtfully.

I hope to leverage this both unique and global experience of living in a pandemic into a dramatically different way of leading. For today, I am working on showing my vulnerability, centering myself with positive statements, seeing the opportunity in difficult situations, and cultivating an awareness of the decisions that have a longer lead time.

Through all of this I hope that I’m not only holding it together but leading with heart into 2021.

Recommended Reading:

I said I wasn’t going to do any research, but I had to look this up. It’s not a new concept, but here’s a not too old article about it.

Tolerance of Ambiguity in Creativity (Second Edition), Mark A. Runco 2014.

See my Resource List on the brain for more information about our bias for problem-solving.

Anything by Brene Brown will support learning about vulnerability and admitting limitations.

Hope you like the updated look of my blog. Like me, it is a work in progress. Take a tour and contact me if you’d like to guest post, co-write a post with me, or do a podcast. I’m trying some new things to expand my perspective.