Heat-Seeking Leaders

Yesterday our state moved into new Stay-At-Home orders, and it really hit me: We’re going through what will probably be a life-changing experience on a worldwide scale. People everywhere are in defensive mode, scrambling to protect their health, their families and their livelihoods. Business leaders have battened down the hatches, trying to figure out how to operate in a fog of uncertainty.

But waiting for the storm to pass isn’t the only or even the best course of action. Let’s remember that the steps we take today (or don’t take) will have an impact on tomorrow and the next day and the next year after that. In fact, some of the greatest opportunities for business growth and re-invention come out of challenging times such as these.

The same is true of people and how they develop as leaders. Think back on your own career. I bet there have been times when you felt like you were in over your head or a project was too much of a stretch. You didn’t have the experience or exactly the right training. But somehow you made it work. And if you think back, those were probably the times when you learned the most.

Some people call these times heat experiences. When we face complicated or uncomfortable situations, we have to re-evaluate our old way of thinking and bring forward new skills. These “trials by fire” accelerate our learning. But only if we seek them out and allow them to.

Here are three questions you can be asking as a leader during this difficult time.
  • Do I have enough heat? At a time like this, it’s natural to want to hunker down. Resist the urge to fly solo or come from a place of fear. Show your people what it means to be safe and aspire.
  • Do they have enough heat? Among your rising leaders, who is almost, but not quite ready for a stretch experience? What developmental opportunities might this difficult time present to them?
  • Does anyone have too much heat? Heat is good; burnout is bad. If you’re close to your people – as you must be during this time – you’ll be able to spot the difference and give them more support.

We didn’t ask for this crisis, but we can make it count. Please let us know how we can be of service and support you through this challenging season and always.


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