Prepare to Lead in 2021

I don’t know about you, but I have never felt more ready for a fresh, new year! I am connecting with my family, colleagues, and community to savor this time of reflection and possibilities — to do the satisfying work of imagining who we are going to be this year.

And, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the fact that the challenging reality 2020 brought to our doorsteps will not magically be washed away as we ring in 2021. What today does bring, is a dose of much-needed celebration and a collective milestone that prompts us to engage the reality before us from a new perspective.

Confronting the Tough News
In 2021, families who’ve lost loved ones will be in mourning. Experts tell us the coronavirus will impact the way we work and connect for at least another year — even amid vaccine developments — as we make our way toward 70% collective immunity. Nearly half of American businesses will still have closed their doors. Legal battles, public campaigns, climate crises, and personal/societal reckonings will continue as we seek solutions to systemic inequities. Political and social divisiveness in global, national, organizational, and even familial dialogue will be ongoing. If we live in the fantasy that normal life is just-around-the-corner, we will be living in crisis mode, asking for all-hands-on-deck, for what has already been too long. What does this mean for our leadership and well-being in 2021?

Becoming a New Kind of Leader
We aren’t getting back the clarity, reliability, consistency, or order that we once counted on, so we must evolve to not only survive, but learn how to thrive in our changing world. In this age where things are ambiguous, unclear, uncomfortable, and uncertain and we face massive changes, transitions, inequity, chaos, and complexity: we must become a new kind of leader. We need leaders who can courageously engage all stakeholders with an authentic care and accountability, who can demonstrate a capacity for acceptance, vulnerability, and resilience, and who above all has a capacity to learn, anticipate and navigate rather than “know,” predict and control. We must expand ourselves to be present with this new reality rather than be passed by while waiting for it to be over.

Acceptance is our Tool
As the saying goes: what we resist, persists. The losses of 2020 have caused unprecedented pain and tribulation while at the same time our access to our support structures are limited — be that financial security, the comfort of friends and family, or simple pleasures like dining out, visiting public spaces, and travel. Our opportunity in the face of these losses and an uncertain future, is to get related to what is so, not what should be so, could be so, or might be so. We also need to open our eyes to what’s coming down the pike. What is emerging? You don’t like what you’re seeing? Want to bury your head? You will be passed by. We must learn to take a deep breath and stand in the discomfort and uncertainty, and accept what is so. This critical skill is the first step to designing a meaningful, difference-making future.

This requires a deep level of self-reflection and creativity.

  • What am I resisting?
  • What is my relationship to uncertainty? To discomfort?
  • What are the stakeholders in my life feeling? Seeing?
  • What matters most to me?
  • What matters most to the stakeholders in my life?
  • What is the purpose of my organization? Is that purpose relevant for my clients this year? What contribution could we make that truly speaks to our times?
  • What new routine would support my well-being?
  • What needs a new solution? A new way? A pivot? And do I have the courage to make a change?
  • How do I show up in the most authentic way?

My wish is for 2021 to be a radical turning point for you and yours — that this be a moment for compassion, for awareness, and for new declarations that make us stronger, more resilient and, ultimately, more alive.

Here’s to a New You in the New Year!

Kari is CEO of an executive leadership firm, supporting leaders to align and elevate performance. See more at www.grangernetwork.com