We are all entering an uncharted economic and societal landscape, given the unknowns of a never imagined pandemic. But we have been faced with uncertainty throughout history. We’ve discussed the Great Depression and the 2008 financial crisis, but let’s also recall 9/11, when no one knew what to expect after such an un- thinkable terrorist attack on our own soil. 

Who was responsible? Was it safe to fly? What was next? 

The emotional shock and ground zero grief were immeasurable. As a nation, we were in pain on every front. When we looked up, we witnessed a work world convulsion. 

Stock markets plunged by more than 7 percent on the first day of trading after 9/11. Businesses were hit with uncertainty, especially the airline and hospitality industries, as well as the insurance and financial sectors. 

In business, we reacted with urgency and creativity, with steadfast belief and resolve to recover, and did so quickly. As we move ahead now, we once again must face these challenges as opportunities to conquer the uncertainty with bold action. Hesitancy is a losing proposition. 

As McKinsey noted in December of 2020: “The strongest companies are also reinventing themselves through next-normal operating models, capitalizing on this malleable moment and the resulting spread of agile processes, nimbler ways of working, and increased speed and productivity.”

Next normal is actually the un-normal. Because we’re not going to be the same again after 2020. Our workplaces have changed, our workforces view life differently, our volatile politics are still roiling. How are we going to answer the bell to our future? As an opportunity or as an obstacle? 

As a CEO, this is the time to be “extra.” This is the time to recognize the extraordinary circumstances we’re living in and seize the un-normal. This is your reset, your moment in history to de- fine yourself and your organization. The culture you establish is not just a number. It’s who you are—the mirror of a leader. And at this inflection point in our lifetime, the word and touch of a CEO means more than ever to employees who are counting on you, the most important metric of all.

Excerpted from RESET: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval by Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP. Copyright © 2021. Available from PublicAffairs, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.