Briefing Notes: The Leadership Issue

Published: April 12, 2020

“We’ve seen that the dystopic stories aren’t coming true. When humans are in trouble, we turn TO one another.” — Andrew Sullivan


We are all leaders now. This situation we’re in… it’s asking us to do extraordinary things. Stuff we haven’t planned for, or dreamed of, or imagined doing. Ever.

All of us are having to (re)learn how to manage ourselves and how we work/parent/relax/live with others. It’s like we moved to a new country (planet?) and we have to figure out the new way of living there.

And for those of us who are team leaders, managers, supervisors, community managers, etc., we have an extra load to bear.

Because, in this extraordinary moment, we not only have to help ourselves (and our spouses and kids and pets, and mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa). We also have to think about those who look to us for leadership, guidance, and some sense of sanity.

First things first: we need to take care of ourselves first if we’re going to be the kind of leader we want to be. Much like that instruction we heard when we used to be able to fly around re: putting on our oxygen masks first before helping others.

Fortunately, this is time we can really lean on our values and natural preferences. This is the subject of the latest episode with Alethea Fitzpatrick, Founder of Co-Creating Inclusion. We also talked about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and why we have to be sensitive to where our baseline is right now.

Next, providing the confidence that there is a way forward that they can contribute to is something people look to leaders for,  according to Gallup.

“When leaders have a clear way forward, human beings are amazingly resilient. There is a documented “rally effect.”

Above all — and at the very least — now is the time for us to exercise and show compassion. Crises affect people differently. For many, it’s not only about caring for themselves and their immediate family. They also have to worry about their extended family.

Not to mention, we don’t all have the set-up to be equally productive. Not everyone has adequate access to technology or to private space (which is why that common tip to “find a dedicated space for work” can be impossible when everyone has to work/study/play in the same space all day long.)

“As we navigate uncharted territory, we have a unique opportunity to examine ways we could be more inclusive, especially to those who may be dealing with significantly more challenges.”

Bottom line:
It’s true, leaders are under extraordinary pressure right now. One thing we can do is to ask ourselves what type of leader we need and want to be for our teams and communities. As Alethea said in Episode 125, we will be remembered for how we treated our employees, contractors, team members, during these times of uncertainty. When we get to the other side of this pandemic, let’s hope that more of us learn to lead inclusively and with empathy, not only in crisis but also in calm.


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  • If you’re caught in a fog, cycling through periods of motivation and stillness, outrage and exhaustion, determination and grief. And you’re trying to figure out where you fit in, what your lane is, or how to begin: Mapping Our Social Change Roles in Times of Crisis
  • Companies are hiring recruiters right now. Tech tops the list of companies with the most recruiting job posts open in the U.S., perhaps because their operations are less disrupted by the pandemic, or are more critical because of it.
  • Audio: Masters of Scale Special Coverage | Hosted by Reid Hoffmann. One of my favorite podcasts is currently in-between seasons. But they are hosting a special coverage, featuring frank conversations with CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs, even Hoffmann himself, about what’s happening right now.
  • Video: From Us, For You | Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest. Perhaps my best find for this week’s issue. You just have to watch.


In March, Lee Chaix McDonough launched a new podcast – Coach With Clarity. This is a podcast for coaches, creatives, helpers, and healers ready to align their coaching skills and business sense to create and sustain a profitable business and fulfilling life. If you’re thinking of coaching as a career, you’ll want to check out this podcast out. Thank you for your support!


“It’s also true that character is formed in times like this. People see deeper into themselves, bravely learn what their pain is teaching them, and become wiser and softer as a result.” — David Brooks


The pandemic has turned back the clock to a kinder time on the web. We see it in the renewed willingness of people to form virtual relationships. People are joining video calls with folks they’ve never met for everything from happy hours to book clubs to group dancing. We see it in the rekindling of old relationships. We’re back to cherishing faraway old friends.

“The internet allows us to maintain a sense of normalcy and support one another and come together,” says Andrew Sullivan, CEO of the non-profit Internet Society. In essence, it has provided a way for us to remain human.

Leah Lievrouw, a UCLA professor who studied social change and the internet, says that what’s emerging is an unprecedented sense of community. That we don’t need to be physically present to mobilize. That it’s our relationship with technology, and how we use it, that makes the diff.

There’s no way to predict what will happen when this is all over. But the internet of the past month shows us the possibilities for the internet of tomorrow. “We’ve seen that the dystopic stories aren’t coming true,” Sullivan says. “When humans are in trouble, they’re turning to one another.”


… way back in December 2019, when you were coming up with your New Year resolutions and vision board for 2020…


Season 3 of the podcast is on and we’re focusing on career continuity and resilience. All season, we’re talking about managing our mindset, practicing resilient habits, leading in times of disruption, focusing on opportunities, and getting through to the other side as strong as we could ever be. Check out the podcast via your mobile app.


Second Breaks is researched, written, and edited by me alone. Each issue takes hours to develop 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!


Doing the research for this issue gave me a lot of hope. For a better world on the other side of this pandemic. Okay, okay. That eye roll was deserved. 🙄 I let the Pollyanna in me take over the keyboard there for a second.

Much like how our travel habits changed permanently after 9/11, some of the things happening now will remain with us long after this has passed. Some of those will be for the best, and some… well, not so much.

My hope is that many of what remains are things that make us better colleagues, better leaders, better humans. The good thing is that each one of us have a say on how we come out better as a result of this event.

Be safe. #StayHome. Send comments, your favorite WFH attire, favorite WFH snack, and favorite WFH distraction.

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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