Coronavirus: an opportunity in crisis to develop your leadership and innovate


As Winston Churchill is remembered as saying: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

There is no doubt we are living and working in complex times. Times where our degree of interconnectedness if more apparent with every day. The coronavirus is one more global example of how we are interdependent – as individuals and sovereign states. The degree of interdependence and not knowing the facts with which to make decisions, places strong pressure on those in roles of authority, as those who follow look for safety, direction and answers.

What if you used this time to approach the challenge a little differently at this time? For example, I predominately work with people in workshops. As I pondered the possibility of clients contacting me to say that they can no longer risk bringing people together for these workshops, and postponing or cancelling them, I wondered how we could respond differently. I am concerned about our income of course – but I am also concerned about serving my clients during this time too. How do we all manage to maintain operations so that we don’t all fall into a recession? Where is the opportunity in this apparent crisis?

I don’t know. So, I have called our people and asked them to think about the challenge that may emerge in front of us. I have contacted clients and let them that ‘we are onto this and finding solutions; although we don’t know exactly what they are yet’. I can see the possibility that a completely new channel of delivery may emerge and perhaps even new services as we come together around this challenge. I can also see the possibility that we may become more internally efficient and flexible in our work. And further down the line, the possibility of also reducing our ecological footprint as we travel less too!

This short and relatively simple story highlights some principles that we teach in our Leadership in Complexity work. These are:

  • Embrace not knowing the answer – let the answer emerge from your interactions with others.
  • Reach out to stakeholders and get the beat of the system.
  • Let go of the reigns – invite others into finding solutions and hold the space for them to do that.
  • Trust the people within the system to find an answer or a first experiment to see what will work.

This approach also nurtures the very human environment necessary for innovation. It draws on the creative capacity of everyone and develops trust to try new ideas. So not only are you working towards pragmatic solutions, but you are also nurturing the very team culture that will cradle new ideas and spawn innovation into the future too. So many possibilities!

Every mature leader knows that you can’t do just one thing at a time – and in a situation like the current coronavirus situation – there will be silver linings for those willing to spot them.

Can you hold yourself back from deciding what the answer is, and telling it to everyone else?