Photo by Daniil Kareskiy

Like many of you, I am stuck at home wondering how I can continue to lead an organization that I co-founded while attempting to survive this new normal myself. Once we went on lock-down, I stared at my to-do list, over and over again, resulting in feelings of overwhelm. I bought into the perception that productivity equals leadership, and I think it is more important than ever to make sure we don’t buy into it.

It is a common deception we buy into as entrepreneurs, leaders, and community organizers—the busier we are, the better leaders we become. We hold up our completed to-do lists as badges of honor, proving to the world that we are capable of holding things together and getting the job done. But now, as the world is on lock-down, it can feel like a gut-punch, especially if productivity served as justification for leadership skills.

Lately, I continue to defend my busyness to people around me after the pandemic made me a shut-in. I became defensive, aggressive, and almost obsessive in the name of productivity. I sometimes fall into the trap of my worth as a leader is defined by my ability to achieve.

As leaders in a field that requires intense discipline and creativity, it is essential to remember these very traits that helped us reach our goals in the first place. We did not get to this place because of playing it safe or being lazy. But, we also didn’t get here only because of our productivity. We arrived here because we are capable of seeing a vision and calling it out into existence.

We arrived as leaders and changemakers because we are committed to causes and beliefs that should not change simply because the world is fighting another injustice in the form of COVID-19. We might have to dig deeper and get out of our productivity bubble, but we can do it. Here’s how I move beyond what I determine as “success” and get back into the business of inspiring leadership:

01 | Practice being vulnerable to staff and partners
I think there’s a myth floating around out there that being a strong leader means not letting anyone see the full range of emotions. But, there is so much more connection available between our teams and us when we admit our fears, shortcomings, doubts, and questions. It sets the stage for us all to be more open with one another, which can come in handy during daily life

02 | Get to know your team in a new way
During this time of global uncertainty enables our teams, staff, partners, co-workers, etc. to see each other in a new light. You will be surprised by what you see. Under pressure, you become witness to your team’s range. Don’t miss it. See it, get to know them, and remember who they are during this time.

03 | Collaborate
 As you get to know your team, delegate, and collaborate more than you ever have before. Help your team and partners have more ownership of their tasks. Be patient and flexible; this is a new situation for everyone.

04 | Adapt
What a season to practice your adaptability as an organization, leader, and person! Be willing to try something, and if it doesn’t work, to adapt that idea swiftly. We are all doing our best!

As a leader, I choose to stay open and humble during this time. I lean into the difficult feelings or troubling concerns. I move forward with trusting the people I work alongside every single day. I am committed to making people know I care about them before any program, profit, or situation–and that we can get through this together.

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