We have never seen a period in our life that has been so severely disrupted.
There is no model to study that replicates the complexity of the chaos we are all facing personally and professionally.
Where can we find answers or perspective that can better prepare us as leaders?
According to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin "history can provide perspective and solace" as we all try to grapple with the impact of Covid-19.
Doris points to two points in history that we've weathered in the 20th century: "When the Great Depression hit rock bottom in March of 33, before the government was able to get in to help people and the vital organs of the economy were closing down and the second point was when it was a complete shock to the world when Hitler invaded Western Europe. Had he been able to continue his onslaught, western civilization as we know it would have been destroyed."
In a new interview in Time Magazine Doris highlights the leadership of FDR and she notes his singular focus and consistent voice as part of his traits that carried the country thru the turbulent times. Doris also notes as FDR "spoke to the nation it was really a single voice, it was a trusted voice. There were fireside chats that he would prepare for days, and he would explain things sort of like a teacher." The President had the incredible knack as well of being "able to make people feel he was talking directly to them."
Doris tries to give us reassurance to know that if we think we are in the worst of times, this isn't necessarily the worst. She says "if you go back to the Civil War, they thought even after Fort Sumter that it would be over in 90 days. They couldn't possibly have imagined what they'd have to endure. That was worse." Doris also uses the leadership of Lincoln as inspiration to draw from during these turbulent times. She particularly points out the ways that Lincoln led by example to ask the question "How was it possible to coordinate these inordinately,prideful,quarrelsome, jealous, supremely gifted men to support a fundamental shift in the purpose of the war? The best answer can be found in Lincoln's compassion, self awareness and humility. He never allowed his ambition to consume his kindheartedness."
As each of us attempt to navigate these difficult times what are the applicable leadership skills that we can draw from history to make us better suited for success and most importantly make our teams be suited for success?
1)Lead with singular focus and a consistent voice.
We are in uncharted territory today and your leadership messaging needs to not change by the hour or the day. Your people haven't been thru anything like this as well so they need the certainty and focus of your message on a regular basis.
2)Master the ability to speak to your team as if you are speaking to each individual one on one. FDR mastered this ability with his carefully prepared fireside chats and it further solidified his reputation for being a trusted voice. This is particularly challenging in the new norm world of ZOOM.
3)Practice compassion, self awareness and humility.
Lincoln at the height of the Civil War never failed to realize the complex nature of the challenges at hand and he realized the importance of empathetic leadership at a time it was most needed. His abilities in these areas fostered a spirit that was critical during the challenging times.
4)Be a unifying force for the mission
Lincoln brought together diverse groups on to his team and he encouraged the environment of collaborative process with his leadership. Different viewpoints were allowed and encouraged and he built into the process a sense of hope and optimism that we would ultimately find brighter days ahead.
Leadership during good and bad times requires resilience that keeps the strategy and mission on track. FDR and Lincoln were great examples of Presidents that set a calm and consistent tone based on fact and the core strength of their team.
Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Leadership in Turbulent Times" is available in hard cover and paperback and is published by Simon and Schuster.
Some thoughts on a great new book by Rishad Tobaccowala. It's never a bad time to look for some soul but in these scary times it feels more important than ever. I interviewed Rishad a few weeks ago on my Buzz Cuts Podcast after reading his new book and so much has changed in the world since then, yet his wise does provide us with much needed inspiration at a time we all need it.
Back in 2018 the NAB was wise to bring in Rishad to speak about the importance of our industry accepting change and understanding the need to better prepare for the future. Rishad has been the Chief Growth Officer at Publicis Groupe and has just released a new book called “Restoring the Soul of Business-Staying Human in the Age of Data” and his deep insights come at a critical time for our business and for the world in chaos. His book is a labor of love as this “Buddha of Business” distills our ever increasing digital world and makes us more conscious of “upgrading the operating systems of people and companies by remembering the thinking and feeling component of the operating system.” Everyone is craving more data and Rishad cautions us to pour data through a series of filters and recognize that human judgement and intuition play a vital role. The book takes an important look at today’s mobile and networked workplaces and begs the questions regarding workplace culture challenges. How can employees avoid feeling overwhelmed and disconnected?
Rishad challenges us to recommend to our people they limit their social media usage so they aren’t continually distracted by notifications and updates.
At the core of the book Rishad highlights five emotional qualities that will help bosses communicate and motivate their people more effectively: Honesty, Empathy, Humility, Inspiration and Vulnerability. In today's complex world Rishad allows us to pause and reflect on ways we can all seek improvement. Check out my interview with Rishad about his new book "Restoring The Soul of Business" on my Buzz Cuts Podcast available wherever you find podcasts.
Every once in awhile we have to take a pause in the chaos of the day and stop and celebrate the group that is a prime differentiator in our battle for attention.
As someone who started on air maybe I have a different appreciation for the oddities, nuances and beauty of talent but isn’t it more critical than ever for us to embrace this bunch?
We are fighting hard to remain top of mind every day and if we give up on them and just treat them as a line item aren’t we asking for trouble?
I applaud people like Fred Jacobs who during his career has always understood the important value proposition of Talent and I also applaud Tracy Johnson and his recent blog post “Open Letter to Radio: It’s time to develop personalities” for bringing this vital topic to the foreground of our conversation.
Let’s evaluate what Great Talent means to a Great Audio Brand:
Talent keeps you live and in the moment when something of local or national importance is going on. Imagine being without talent at a moment of market crisis and shiver at the thought of not being in the moment. I think of the importance of Talent in Nashville in light of the recent tragedy.
Talent allows you to engage in the moment with your audience while utilizing your important social and digital channels.
Imagine trying to connect with your available audience without Talent and you’re imagining a sterile brand experience.
Talent allows you to work diligently on behalf of your clients to get their message out to the mass market. Imagine a world without these great “pitch masters” and you have a world where we aren’t serving our customers.
I’m sure you can add to this list yourselves and I welcome that feedback.
WE MUST CHERISH AND CELEBRATE TALENT!
I never met Mr. Welch but I miss him already for his legacy of great Management and Leadership that he left behind.
In an era of tremendous challenge in the midst of frequent chaos I believe considering what his brilliant mind brought to the business world is more important than ever to evaluate and learn from.
Some of his key lessons
Managers have to stop muddling and lead. It’s important to be a leader who lays out the clear vision and doesn’t squeeze out the joy of a situation by exercising control.
Managers have to figure out the proper balance that allows them to manage less. Managers can tend to feel that close control is better management and in fact at times it can be the worst form of management.
Every situation is different but the manager that can figure out how to manage less is the one that ultimately benefits from the internal competitive spirit and the positive benefit that is produced.
Managers of all type need to seek ways to better articulate the vision to their respective teams. A leaders job is to inspire and those that lay out a clear vision stand a greater likelihood for creative ideas to be generated by their team.
Managers need to always find an opportunity to energize their team members. Times are challenging today but energizing is a leadership priority that can’t be pushed to the bottom of the in box.
Managers shouldn’t be afraid to get good ideas from everywhere. Great leadership understands the best idea wins and it doesn’t matter who it comes from.
No matter what side of your business you occupy, leadership skills are a critical component of continuous improvement in your organization. Let’s learn from the wealth of knowledge the great Mr. Welch brought to the world.
Buzz Knight shares his thoughts about media happenings