“Strong Leadership and Making People Safe First is an Imperative—Business Follows”

Today more than ever those leading us through crisis must have strong empathy and compassion first—business at-hand comes second. The human side of life must be addressed first to lead us out of crisis. This begins by addressing the most foundational human needs to survive. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs defines the psychological motivational theory addressing survival—beginning with food, water, and safety—these must be achieved before other needs can be met (Maslow, 1943).

Now is the time every employer and their people need to prepare for when we can all return to work in the new norm—when it is safe for everyone to return.

Building a “scalable” business model just took on a totally new meaning and imperative. This is an opportune time to not only rethink the future of your organization (new business strategy) but to rethink the competencies and talent needed to bring your new strategy to life in a much more agile and dynamic way than ever before.

“Just as the world will never be the same after this COVID-19 pandemic,

neither will nor should your organization.”

“As long as we have learned from our experiences, apply empathy and compassion, and ensure the safety of others first—we will continue to make progress.”


Rapid Agility—How rapidly organizations and people are able to move from a “brick and mortar organization” to a “virtual organization” is paramount to maintain stability in current COVID-19 crisis and in future uncertain times including when the next pandemic or catastrophe takes place—it is not a matter of “if” it is a matter of “when”.

Inspirational Leadership Matters—The faster an organization’s leadership and its employees can act to keep the momentum and gain stability during and after crisis—the more likely such organization will achieve a sustainable future. It all begins with having the right leadership and the right people in the right seats then a progressive future is possible. Now is the time to be thinking about whether you have the right leadership and people in the right seats moving into your “new norms”. Please be certain—this is not saying layoffs—it is saying restructuring so that you are leveraging your current bench strength and adding new leadership and talent strengths where you are weak or missing what is needed.

Gifford Thompson posits “Inspiration and leadership are inseparable. If you cannot inspire your team to achieve greatness, if you cannot inspire a group of people to follow your vision, if you cannot inspire people by your words and actions; you’re not a leader. You are an average manager at best. Inspirational leaders don’t accept ‘the way life is,’ and they are often uncomfortable if they are not living their purpose, and sharing it with the world. We were all born with unique gifts to share, but we are often thrown off track by taking a job that is safe, and has great benefits but isn’t fulfilling—we may be good at it, we may be the best at it, but it does not bring out the greatness trapped inside of us begging to come out (Thompson, 2020).”

Brandy Schade, Strengthology Leadership Consultant, shared with me during a recent conversation we were having on what competencies great managers possess. Brandy posited “the key traits to look for in a person when promoting or hiring someone into a leadership role are they:

• Motivate every single employee to act and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.

• Have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.

• Create a culture of clear accountability.

• Build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency; and

• Make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

All of these 5 critical traits are also competencies found within someone who has strong emotional intelligence. There is a plethora of studies that show authentic and most meaningful leaders must have strong emotional intelligence.

Brandy also shared with me a Gallop article written by Randall Beck and Jim Harter and published in the Gallop Workplace Business Journal that went into details about these five traits and when organizations measure these traits when hiring their managers, they were able to double the rate of engaged employees, and achieve on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition (Beck and Harter, ND).

“Companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time,

Gallup finds”

Motivating the Troops—What does the military have that the majority of organizations don’t have? Leaders at all levels motivating the people around them. A core leadership competency absolutely a must is the ability to quickly build rapport and trust with direct reports and all employees. This competency also happens to be a core competency of strong emotional intelligence. William Treseder is a thought leader when it comes to leadership and how to motivate others wrote a compelling article entitled “Military Secrets for Motivating Employees” that quickly points out the missing link and reasons why the military is so amazingly great at motivating their troops and what organizations can learn from the military’s success taking people from all over the world with absolutely nothing in common and—depending on the service—has between 6 and 13 weeks to mold them into a functional unit that is capable of executing complex tasks with relative precision.

Treseder posits “The magnitude of this task is difficult to grasp. It’s hard enough to get one teenaged male to do something (ask any parent), let alone dozens of them. Crammed together. Sleep-deprived. With weapons… On top of that, these young men and women are sweating or freezing for less than minimum wage. The bottom line, the Army, Navy, and Air Forces are good at motivating people because they have to be because military life is hard and you can’t pay people much. You may ask them to die, and you have to know they’ll accomplish the mission anyway.”

A common thread can be found amongst the best leaders—whether Spartan hoplite, a Japanese samurai, a Turkish Ghazi, or an American soldier—the ability to have empathy and an understanding of human nature. Napoleon demonstrated unparalleled insight into human nature when explaining the medal to his critics on how soldiers need glory, distinctions, and rewards. Treseder concurred “Things should be earned, never given. (Treseder, 2014).”

Team Engagement & Productivity—Brandy Schade, Strengthology Leadership Consultant, People who have fun and do what they do best on a daily basis are 6x as likely to be engaged. Teams that focus on strengths every day are 12.5% more productive. High levels of employee engagement increase profitability and productivity by approximately 20%.

Paul Zak wrote about “The Neuroscience of Trust”—and found that “building a culture of trust is what makes a meaningful difference. Employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies. They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance. (Zak, 2017).

Shifting Mindset—It is not just about what an organization wants and needs to survive vs. become extinct—it is also important to address what leadership and employees need to thrive. A relevant survey by the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (SEVS) used to evaluate the extent to which the Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW) employees are motivated. Here are a few of what was most important:

• Importance of their jobs and connection to their organization’s mission

• Understanding their jobs and performance feedback

• Encouragement of individual development and the importance of a healthy work-life balance

• Feeling empowered, appreciated, paid fairly, and having opportunities for growth

(Saacks, 2016).

Assessing Your Bench Strength During COVID-19 and Beyond—Virtual recruitment and virtual hiring now should be your “go-to” resources as you take a critical view of your current leadership and people and identify the gaps in strengths necessary to drive the future of your organization in the new norms.

Hiring Virtually—Leonel DeLeon, an expert in retain executive search placements, wrote an article recently entitled “Cost of Getting ‘Hiring Wrong’” and as I was reading it, I found the timeliness of his article to be even more profound because of what we are now experiencing and the entire world is dealing with during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Leonel further posits a few of the advantages of embracing virtual hiring practices, I have found are:

• Access to a larger pipeline of new talent—Global Reach with Local Touch

• Attracting a robust pipeline of more highly-qualified candidates—Breadth and Depth of Reach

• Leveraging technology, reducing time to hire, and making consistently good decisions with on-demand and live video interviews—Means Deploying Talent Much Faster Within Just A Few Days Vs. Weeks or Months.

• Enabling rapid screening of candidates and helps narrow the funnel to assess the most qualified, “best fit” candidates for each position—Finding Best Fit Faster

• Reduces the cost of hiring and increases better decision making—Mitigating the Risk of Hiring the Wrong People

According to a recent Gallup study “Bad managers cost businesses billions of dollars each year and having too many of them can bring down a company. The only defense against this problem is a good offense because when companies get these decisions wrong, nothing fixes it. Businesses that get it right, however, and hire managers based on talent will thrive and gain a significant competitive advantage (Beck and Harter, ND).

Leonel further shared in his article a recent survey from The Conference Board who have been conducting Executive surveys since 1999 shows that the world's top chief executives view the following as their Top 3 concerns in 2020:

• #1 concern is the risk of a recession (we are in a bad recession right now)

• #2 attracting and retaining talent (COVID-19 has caused organizations to layoff and freeze up combined with complete chaos especially when it comes to making hiring decisions), and lastly

• #3 competition and staying ahead of the curve while remaining relevant to their customers and employees (companies’ worst nightmare just became real)

Executives in 2020 also feel unsettled by trade uncertainty, political instability, and more intense competition from disruptive technologies (multiply this fear tenfold today as the pandemic has brought the US economy to its knees).

JPMORGAN CHASE CEO, Jamie Dimon, says he expects "a bad recession" and financial stress "similar to the global financial crisis" in the months ahead as the U.S. economy reels from the spread of the coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown measures being adopted to contain it (U.S. News & World Report, 04/06/20).

Leonel DeLeon, is the Managing Partner of Strong Tower Partners, a retain executive search, talent advisory and executive coaching firm specialized in identifying, attracting and coaching exceptional leaders to maximize organizational talent selection and talent management competencies and processes.

In conclusion, now is the time every employer and their people need to prepare for how their business will be conducted in order to thrive vs. become extinct right now and into the future as we all return to work in the new norm. The reality is organizations must build “scalable” business models and scalable hiring practices while leveraging this unprecedented time in global and U.S. history by embracing it as an opportune time to not only rethink the future of your organization (new business strategy) but to rethink the competencies and talent needed to bring your new strategy to life in a much more agile and dynamic way than ever before.

“Just as the world will never be the same after this COVID-19 pandemic,

neither will nor should your organization.”


Learn More



Adaptive Learning and Engaging Every Learner in the Workplace

Posted on May 22, 2015 at 9:15 PM

Adaptive learning is the hot buzzword being talked about in education and business today. Adaptive learning is a method used to teach students and train employees using computers as interactive tools aiding the learner. By removing the “one size fits all” non-adaptive learning approach into a “tailor-made” learning environment students/employees learn more effectively. Tailor-made refers to the basic premise that student/employees learn better when information adjusts and aligns to their learning preferences and needs (Paramythis, Reisinger, and Kepler, 2013). Adaptive learning has become synonymous with the concept of personalized learning.

According to Adam Newman, founding partner of Education Growth Advisors, “Personalized learning is an umbrella term and is defined as a ‘pedagogical method or process that draws on observation to inform tailored student educational interventions designed to increase the likelihood of learner success.’” Adaptive learning began in psychology by B. F. Skinner, behavioral psychologist in the 1950s. Followed by the artificial intelligence movement in the 1970’s, however it lacked the sophistication of data-driven applications that are available today (Kasper, 2014). Today technology expands upon adaptive learning platforms and is used to drive consumer sites like Amazon and Netflix as well as progressive organizations using data analytics to better understand employee-learning preferences.

Adjusting to student/employee’s preferred learning style allows for personalization for a greater learning experience which then engages the employee in the learning process through interactions specific to what their needs are at any given time and by doing so helps them achieve optimal potential and performance. To effectively engage every learner in your workplace begins with understanding your employees (data analytics). Who are they? What are their strengths and where do they need to become stronger? What are their learning preferences based on gender and interests? Then taking this data and determining how to design and customize the instruction and training facilitation so that it is truly adaptive and applicable? This requires a fresh look at employee/workforce demographics, competencies and potential. It is important to understand what employees think (believe) about their potential and what employer’s think (believe) about their employee’s potential because this dramatically affects what type of design is needed to effectively engage learners to achieve optimal learning outcomes. Identifying the gaps and creating tailor-made content for all learners takes time, however, when all employees engage in learning organizations can reap the greatest return of this investment in their people and employee’s can learn more effectively and can then apply this new found knowledge more efficiently in the workplace. Knowledge is powerful!  


Lemke, C. (2013). Intelligent adaptive learning: An essential element of 21st century teaching and learning. The Metiri Group. Retrieved from http//

Paramythis, A., Loidl-Reisinger, S., & Kepler, J. (2004). Adaptive Learning Environments and e-Learning Standards. Retrieved from http//

Spiro, K. (2014). eLearning trends leading to the end of the learning management system. Retrieved from http//

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