History has always judged leaders differently than when they are in the midst of their role. Aristotle calls real leadership the “excellence of character.” We’ve learned, over time, that the true character of a leader isn’t always known in the midst of their leadership.
“While leaders are judged by how well they respond to a crisis, the true mark of greatness is what a leader does between emergencies. The best ones never rest; they work behind the scenes, without bravado, to prevent the next crisis from happening.” -Sam Walker
What we see in the behaviors, actions, and decisions of leaders is not always the whole picture.
How will history judge the leaders of today? From presidents of countries to small business owners to high school sports team captains, the standards have changed.
As recently as January 2020, defining a good leader and what it took to be one was fairly universal. Of course, nuances could easily be found in our differences of definition. However, we generally understood good leadership to be the ability to guide a person or group of people. One would accomplish this through communication, influence, and planning.
Isn’t that all still true? Sure.
But now, there are new layers of complexity.
Before this pandemic, the current generation of leaders had not been required to embrace resiliency and flexibility as core leadership skills.
Resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
Flexibility – the ability and willingness to adjust one’s thinking or behavior.
As we look back on the leaders during the years of 2020/2021, history will judge them on these two characteristics.
Let’s look at an example of where these leadership traits have shown up and are making a difference for the people we have the privilege of working with.
In March 2020, on the very day that our local schools in Prior Lake, MN closed their doors for what we thought would be two weeks, the leaders at Miracle-Ear were preparing to launch a new leadership development program for store leaders.
The program started and stopped on that day.
It truly felt like the whole world shifted.
Our kids went from learning in schools to learning from their bedrooms; employees across the world moved their offices home; and so many new initiatives were postponed. For the leaders at Miracle-Ear, the focus turned to supporting store leaders in other ways. With in-person retail traffic reduced, they immediately went to work helping store leaders find new ways to serve clients virtually.
Fortunately, the leaders at Miracle-Ear, both corporate and franchise, navigated this challenge with tenacity and boldness. The stories of flexibility in serving patients, adapting systems and teams, and supporting one-another will be what Miracle-Ear remembers of this time.
For many other businesses, a similar story rings true. We saw the power of resilient leaders win the day over those that leaned into the status-quo. We saw leaders claim their lack of knowledge, pull together teams that could figure it out, and push hard through that fight-or-flight reflex to find answers that moved them forward. We are still watching as leaders make impossible decisions about next moves.
We know the story of our friends at Miracle-Ear because we were sitting in their offices the day everything changed — imaging together what a customized leadership development program could look like for them and their Store Leaders. We didn’t start the program until exactly one year, to the date, after we sat together in their offices.
By waiting, we gained a partnership that has allowed us to fully customize tools that are unique to them and their needs and invest in their people in new and exciting ways. Our partnership with Miracle-Ear will last for years to come and the impact of the program on their leaders will transfer to their teams and ultimately, their customers. We can credit their leadership for that. Because of their resiliency and flexibility, they were able to recognize the changing needs of store leaders and respond with a new type of leadership development program that will serve them in adapting their leadership needs for today and long into the future. And — we were intentional in designing a program that allows for deeper awareness of what they need to lead from a position of strength, while exercising resiliency and flexibility!