The 43rd: Leading, through and out of crisis

Published: October 11, 2020

The 43rd | WORK TALK


2020. <sigh> This year has challenged us in more ways than one, hasn’t it?

Especially those of us in some kind of leadership role (more on that below). We’ve been called upon to show up differently — purposefully, deliberately — for our teams, our businesses. And let’s not forget, for our families and ourselves too!

And it’s not over yet. More is being asked of us. Where do we go from here? What do we take to the next chapter of whatever happens? How do we lead through and out of this crisis?

If you’re starting to think, “Well, I’m not really a leader,” I would ask that you take a brief pause. Are you sure you’re not?

Many of us are leaders today. Some because of the official position we hold. Some because the kind of work we do naturally puts us out there in a leadership role. For others, it’s a choice we’ve made… to lead.

Or it could simply be that we’ve been thrust to such a position without us asking for it.

And as leaders, we have a responsibility to the people who choose — or are required — to follow us as we navigate out of the pandemic and these beyond-description times.

An essay from E&Y about leadership behavior poses a question:

In the coming months we will have a choice. Will we regress back to old ways of working, or will we be deliberate about forming new positive leadership habits?

We know we have to continue to demonstrate resilience. That’s a given. Joe Dettmann and his co-authors say we ought to add warmth to that. They say resilience + warmth equals leading people through this crisis.

The formula is to understand what people are going through first, then to respond appropriately. You don’t have to be all things all the time.


Dettmann suggests the following five behaviors. We can use these as a framework to help us figure out specific things we can do. Without being fake. While being true to the kind of leader we want to be.

➡️ When (our) people are stressed and uncertain: We respond as leaders by being a steady hand at the wheel. Being grounded.

➡️ When (our) people want us to know what they’re going through: We take their perspective. We show empathy. We check our baggage and ego. It’s not about us. It’s about them.

➡️ When (our) people want honest connection: We show up as ourselves. We are transparent as we can be. We share what we ourselves are going through.

➡️ When (our) people are feeling unfocused, disconnected, and less motivated: We lighten the burden. We bring perspective and (appropriate) humor. It’s okay to laugh; levity is key to resilience.

➡️ When (our) people need to find meaning and clarity in a time of crisis: We bring it back to what matters most. We stay true, every day, in (a) what we say, (b) how we decide, and (c) what we do.


We will all remember this year, these times. 2020 is a call to action. We get to choose how we want to be as leaders and members of our teams and communities.


Switching from climbing a corporate ladder to starting a small business meant I was in for a steep learning curve. Back in the day, this would have meant investing loads of money on a business program and going to school nights and weekends. Thankfully, the world has evolved and we now have access to JIT training and bite-sized programs that fit our busy schedules. I couldn’t have done it without the online classes at CreativeLive.

If you’re starting out in your self-employment or business ownership journey, you’ll want to review the list of best-selling business basics classes.* Good luck with your new venture!

*P.S. This is an affiliate link.

  • Could you possibly be a micro-manager and not be aware that you are one? 🤭 Gallup says a common misconception is that micro-managers are too involved. However, their survey shows that team members actually experience the opposite — a severe lack of employee feedback or meaningful communication with their manager. So a hands-off approach isn’t necessarily the answer. Today’s micromanager is likely someone who wants it done exactly their way but provides little context, support, help, or advice. The Ultimate Guide to Micromanagers: Signs, Causes, Solutions
  • Is it harder — now that you’re in mid-career — to find mentors? Maybe you started a business and now that you’re the ‘boss’, you don’t feel like you have good mentors to learn from anymore. Mia Scharphie of Build Yourself says we have to look at this differently. She says the mentorship model that worked earlier in our careers won’t be as effective as we progress or move up the ladder. For experienced folks like us, we have to apply a different approach to identifying and relating to our mentors. (I also liked that — turning this piece around — we have opportunities to mentor others, and they don’t all have to be younger than us. That, in itself, is a myth!)
  • When people describe a colleague as having “gravitas”, it typically means they are taken seriously. Their contributions are considered important (or at the very least, worthy of consideration). They are trusted and respected. Beware though. Surface-level gravitas that is focused on outward appearance — including posturing, dominance, self-importance — isn’t helpful and is actually counter-productive and harmful. HBR writes about how we can develop gravitas while being true to ourselves.


“These are the moments when we get to redefine what it means to show up for each other.”

— Joe Dettmann, PhD

Have you got a project (a new podcast, a new website, a new product, service, artwork, what have you) that you would like to get featured here? Hit ‘reply’ and tell me about it. Let's support each other!


Rockstar Eddie Van Halen’s death last week got me thinking of Michael Jackson’s Beat It. Why? Because, although Van Halen had already been a big name in hard rock, it was his iconic guitar solo in that song, released in 1983, that made him a pop culture icon. Cue around 3:10 for the guitar solo.


Ten episodes ago, we started a conversation around newly created roles. These are jobs that have gained popularity in the last few years or are now needed because of the changing marketplace.

In wrapping up the series, I wanted to take a pause to reflect on key takeaways from these conversations. What struck a chord? What can we apply, no matter what path it is we’re looking to pursue?

Listen to Episode 144: Career Tips for Taking On Newly Created Roles. Or read the highlights.

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Briefing Notes is researched, written, and edited by me alone. Each issue takes hours to produce and requires paid subscriptions to numerous journals, magazines, and books to get the widest and best source of information. If you find value in the newsletter, I’d so much appreciate you subsidizing my coffee habit 😊 It helps with the research and the writing!

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I said to someone the other day that producing the podcast has become a way for me to mark the passing of time.

I have 144 episodes to help me see the past three years.

Back in June, Season 4 was just an idea. Now, it’s all wrapped up with a bow. It’s a tangible thing I can point to and say, “Look there, that’s what I did with the four months.”

I’ve got 3 more months left, and then I can say, “This is what I created/made happen during this most unbelievable year.”

It’s not everything. But it’s something.

Here’s to a safe, sane, and productive week. Send over any comments, your favorite Michael Jackson or Van Halen song, or really, whatever’s on your mind. 😊 It’d be a blast to hear from you.

Cool beans,
Lou Blaser


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Briefing Notes and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on helping experienced professionals navigate an evolving work landscape so they can continue their impact and relevance in a changing world.

The world of work is changing.

Stay smart about it.

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