“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



Hey Leaders: Stop Thinking So Much and Just Do It!

Posted on June 2, 2016 at 6:25 PM

Hey Leaders: Stop Thinking so much and just do it! 

by Author, Daniel Gross, executive editor of strategy+business.

This article was published in strategy+business on March 25, 2015 and holds just as an important message today if not more for aspiring "Leaders".

The source: strategy+business: Corporate Strategies and News Articles on Global Business, Management, Competition and Marketing

Published: March 25, 2015


“You can only learn what you need to know about your job and about yourself by doing it—not by just thinking about it.” That may be a strange way for someone who thinks about (and teaches and writes about) business for a living to start a book. And it certainly represents a fork from the increasingly well-trod intellectual path that celebrates mindfulness and introversion. But to Herminia Ibarra, it represents a truism: “Simply put, change happens from the outside in, not from the inside out.”

Those are just two of the many counterintuitive and easily digestible bits of wisdom in Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader. Concise, direct, and possessing a certain flair, Ibarra’s new book (her second) is a projection of her personality. A native of Miami and veteran of Harvard Business School, Ibarra since 2002 has taught at INSEAD in Paris, where she is the Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning and heads her department.

The book’s core message is simple and incisive. In an age of constant disruption, you better redefine yourself before the rapidly shifting sands of corporate America and technology redefine you. You have to act like a leader before you’re appointed to a leadership position, and you have to manage your own leadership path. The way to do it is by intentionally making yourself uncomfortable. Only be exiting your comfort zone can you develop “outsight”—the term she coins to describe the valuable perspective gained through actions.

 You have to act like a leader before you’re appointed to a leadership position.

To do so, people must overcome the gravitational pull of inertia. Ibarra notes that psychology and financial incentives push us to do more of what we are good it, and to get still better at it. But, she writes, “When we allocate more time to what we do best, we devote less time to learning other things that are also important.” And pursuing the comfort of our competencies can set us up for failure when circumstances change. A professional might spend decades thriving as a newspaper editor, or as a manager of a big-box electronics retail supply chain, or overseeing coal-mining operations—only to find that circumstances suddenly render his expertise significantly less valuable, even obsolete.

 To avoid this competency trap, Ibarra argues, people have to regard their jobs as platforms for building “outsight” and leadership capacities. How? By creating slack in your schedule so you can get involved in projects outside your core area and participate in extracurricular industry activities. By consciously making the effort to network with people who work in different industries and have different competencies. By finding a context or situation that makes you uneasy—giving a presentation, showing up at a conference for the first time, speaking up at an internal meeting. “Act as radically different from your normal behavior as you can,” she suggests.

Trying on a new identity at work may seem anathema to the rising cult of authenticity. But Ibarra urges readers to recognize how adhering strictly to behaviors that feel natural can inhibit career evolution. While everybody wants to be true to themselves, they can “hit a wall as they enter the transition to more senior leadership roles.” Ibarra notes that she has faced this dilemma in her own career. Starting to teach compelled her to make the adjustment from an academic researcher to someone who had to directly engage MBA students. Years later, when she was tapped to become a department chair at INSEAD, she felt the job was infringing on her capacity to do what she was best at—writing and teaching. “I wasn’t stepping up to leadership, because I didn’t think that leading was real work,” she writes. To gain outsight, Ibarra practiced some of what she preaches. She began networking outside her comfort zone, sought out board positions, and become involved with outside groups like the World Economic Forum.

Ibarra’s advice definitely cuts against the grain. As she put it in a recent interview with strategy+business, her argument calls into question the “long tradition of social psychology research that the way we think follows what we do, and not the other way around.” And humans tend not to focus on the need to build capacities before we actually need them.

There may be practical obstacles to acting like a leader in the way Ibarra suggests. “The actual advice I’ve given people is to try to carve out 10 to 15 percent of their time for side projects—networking events, connecting to people not in the immediate path of your operational responsibilities,” she said. But not every company or organization is designed to let employees have reliable slack in their schedules; if anything, the trend is in the opposite direction.

Also, the prescriptions may not work in every context. Ibarra concedes that the impulses that inform her book are characteristically American—the ability to network, to invent one’s self, and then to reinvent one’s self. In the U.S., “it’s a culture where hierarchical differences are minimized, and you can walk up to anybody and introduce yourself,” she said. “It’s not something you do as easily in France.”

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. And it’s never too early to start. Becoming a leader, this valuable book reminds us, is a process, not simply an event. And it requires building a set of skills rather than following a series of prescribed steps. “Stepping up to leadership is more like becoming a great chef,” Ibarra writes, “than following a recipe.”

Author Profile: Daniel Gross is executive editor of strategy+business.

Categories: Notable Authors and Topics and Books to Read, Leadership

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