This is a Guest blog post by Bei Ma, Founder and CEO of The Pinea Group
Leadership Transformation in 2020
Change is inevitable. Transformation is by conscious choice.
Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash
As Bill Gates recommended 5 summer books in his recent Gates Notes on May 18, 2020, he wrote: “The Ride of a Lifetime, by Bob Iger. This is one of the best business books I’ve read in several years. Iger does a terrific job explaining what it’s really like to be the CEO of a large company. Whether you’re looking for business insights or just an entertaining read, I think anyone would enjoy his stories about overseeing Disney during one of the most transformative times in its history.”1
Yes, indeed. Robert Iger, in his 2019 book “The Ride of a Lifetime”, shares in great detail on how the ten principles that strike him as necessary to true leadership have transformed Disney. And the ten principles are: Optimism, Courage, Focus, Decisiveness, Curiosity, Fairness, Thoughtfulness, Authenticity, Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, and Integrity.
While each of these ten principles speaks the truth of leadership, we need more, we need more for an unprecedented year we are in at this very moment. The year of 2020 perhaps manifests every aspect you can imagine that life does not always go the way you expect it will.
We are still in the middle of the global pandemic. Period. The director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci spoke at BIO Digital virtual healthcare conference on June 10 that the coronavirus pandemic has turned out to be his “worst nightmare” and warned that it’s not over yet.2
Millions of people still have no jobs or steady income despite an optimistic labor report of May by the Department of Labor. According to Business Insider, US jobless claims totaled 44 million, meaning more than one in four American workers have lost a job during the pandemic.3
Social reform is well likely underway with the “Black Lives Matter” movement amid nationwide protests. New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo says he intends to sign the package of bills passed by New York legislators for comprehensive police reform.4
In the business context, CEOs have been facing an ultimate leadership test. While business executives shall absolutely continue to incorporate and implement in their daily business life the ten principles of true leadership by Robert Iger: Optimism, Courage, Focus, Decisiveness, Curiosity, Fairness, Thoughtfulness, Authenticity, Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, and Integrity, leadership transformation is imperative. CEOs must make conscious choices for leadership transformation facing one crisis after another in the year of 2020 and onward.
In this article, we explore two actions, accompanying mindset and qualities that can help executives navigate such perfect storms and future crises and consciously make leadership transformation.
Leading with Compassion
Numerous studies show that in a business-as-usual environment, compassionate leaders perform better and foster more loyalty and engagement by their teams.5 However, compassion becomes especially critical during a crisis.6
Four months into the pandemic, the nation is seeing a historic wave of widespread psychological trauma driven by fear, isolation, uncertainty, anger, and distress. Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.7
To an organization, collective fears and existential threats triggered by the crises call for a compassionate, empathetic, caring and highly visible leadership. If executives demonstrate that everything is under control with business-as-usual meetings and overconfident emails with an upbeat tone, afraid of showing the genuine vulnerability, empathy to connect and compassion to support their people, reduce their stress and burden, absurdly, this might backfire and will certainly not create the confidence, innovation and creativity from people to enable them navigate through the crises and recover the business.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people
will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou –
People feel it and will never forget when leaders act with genuine compassion, especially during the crises.
Leading with Rooted Power
In routine emergencies, experience is perhaps the most valuable quality that leaders bring. But in novel, landscape-scale crises, character is of the utmost importance.8 Deliberate calm is the ability to detach from a fraught situation and think clearly about how one will navigate it.9
Crisis-resistant leaders, as the captains of their ships during a perfect storm, will be able to unify the teams with deliberate calm, clarity, and stableness, making a positive difference in people’s lives. The calmness comes from well-grounded individuals who possess rooted power of humility, hope, and tenacity.
Crisis-resistant leaders return to their roots, core values, beliefs, and principles during a perfect storm. They pose questions to themselves and teams about what the organization stands for, what the purpose is, and what should continue to do or stop doing, what need to be created as new practices or ways of working, new norms that are emerging.10
The rooted power of crisis-resistant leaders is originated from physical health providing energy and stamina; mental health providing optimistic and positive view; intellectual health providing acute decisiveness and clarity; and social health providing the trust and transparency.
Only grounded leaders with such rooted power can beat landscape-scale crises.
The crises and overwhelming consequences ask for leadership transformation. Besides the ten principles to true leadership1, business leaders who make conscious transformation: leading with compassion and leading with rooted power, can support their organizations and communities, navigating through the perfect storms.
- Jane E. Dutton, Ashley E. Hardin, and Kristina M. Workman, “Compassion at work,” Annual Review Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, Volume 1, Number 1, 2014, pp. 277–304; Jacoba M. Lilius, et al, “Understanding compassion capability,” Human Relations, Volume 64, Number 7, 2011, pp. 873–99; Paquita C. De Zulueta, “Developing Compassionate Leadership in Health Care: An Integrative Review,” Journal of Healthcare Leadership, Volume 8, 2016, pp. 1–10.
- Jane E. Dutton, et al, “Leading in times of trauma,” Harvard Business Review, Volume 80, Number 1, 2002, pp. 54–61; Edward H. Powley and Sandy Kristin Piderit, “Tending wounds: Elements of the organizational healing process,” Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Volume 44, Number 1, 2008, pp. 134–49.
- Gemma D’Auria and Aaron De Smet, McKinsey & Company, Organizational Practice, “Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges”, 2020.
- Helio Fred Garcia, “Effective leadership response to crisis,” Strategy & Leadership, 2006, Volume 34, Number 1, pp. 4–10.
- Adapted from Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky, “Leadership in a (permanent) crisis,” Harvard Business Review, July–August 2009, hbr.com
About the Author
Bei Ma is the founder and CEO of the Pinea Group (Pinea). Pinea serves as a trusted partner specialized in cross-border fund raising, market access, clinical studies, regulatory pathway, licensing, and distribution to help medical devices, diagnostics, pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical organizations to achieve the best patient outcomes and commercial success. Previously, Bei Ma served as Vice President of Global Healthcare Business Development at British Standards Institution (BSI) Group. Bei can be reached at 410.271.7267 and firstname.lastname@example.org; her LinkedIn profile is https://www.linkedin.com/in/beima/