In the midst of profound hardship and unrelenting crisis, the path to progress and success relies upon the unity of purpose that only strong leadership can foster. Leading your enterprise within the status quo is a far cry from the premium that current circumstances place on calm, collected, and purpose-driven leadership as we enter a new (and different) world.
Current circumstances in the world are teeming with unpredictability and unparalleled in consequence, and as a leader, you are inherently the source of direction for those you lead. You’ve persevered to overcome many previous obstacles life has presented, but now you must continue that trajectory and counsel your organization through these unimaginable events.
My name is Bo Parfet, and I am the Founder & CEO Of Denali Venture Philanthropy. Our vision at Denali Venture Philanthropy focuses on financing entrepreneurs with a dedication to driving social change. Since 2013, our impact investment group has maintained a chief principle: all of us are connected. Promoting positive, inventive, and sustainable improvements to vulnerable communities worldwide are in line with our core values.
My career in finance originated at the Financial Accounting Standards Board. After a few years, I transitioned to a role as an investment banker in corporate finance for J.P. Morgan on Wall Street. I hold a master’s degree in economics from the University of Michigan and received an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Chicago’s Northwestern University. As vital as educational pursuits have been to my maturation process, it is outside of the classroom where I learned the key role of leadership in survival.
As a green mountaineer at the age of 22, I set out to scale the highest peaks on each of the seven continents, known as the Seven Summits. Mt. Kilimanjaro, in Africa, was my first expedition followed by Mount Everest (Asia), Mount McKinley (North America), Vinson Massif (Antarctica), Cerro Aconcagua (South America), Mount Kosciuszko (Australia), Carstensz Pyramid (Oceania) and Mount Elbrus (Europe.) Every adventure offered unique and perilous situations; exhaustion, the threat of starvation, drowning in crocodile-infested waters, death drops, and confrontations with corrupt army officials and local militias were seemingly ceaseless. On those voyages, I connected with the importance of being a fearless adventurer, defying the odds, and elevating my team. (I’ve documented my travels in a book I authored called Die Trying: One Man’s Quest to Conquer the Seven Summits.)
While navigating extenuating circumstances, it is essential to trust the instincts that propelled you into the position you hold today. The rapidly unfolding events and existential threats are new, but your determination as a leader is battle-tested and resolute.
The work of your entire career(s) will enable you to meet these novel, difficult challenges and guide you in reaching new professional heights.
Take control of your mindset. As we all scale uncharted terrain together, you must stay measured and push back against overwhelming mental obstacles. You won’t have the authority to change outside factors affecting your business; however, you do have control of your attitude and the behavior that it manifests.
Take your guidance on the developing situation from the experts and from evidence-driven forecasts. Facts and data must come before emotions when outlining your survival plan and the reclamation anything that may have been lost. Business cycles will remain volatile for the foreseeable future, but factual information and recommendations will always keep you on solid footing.
Act decisively and swiftly. Pivot from the “tactical overwatch” view where you only look ahead and narrow your scope. Next year’s earnings won’t materialize if there isn’t restorative order implemented in this quarter. Move with purpose.
Tell the truth clearly and effectively. Miscommunication during times of crisis can worsen an organization’s stability during societal and economic upheaval. Confusion will exacerbate the situation, so be straightforward no matter how difficult the news.
Flashes of optimism, when possible, go a long way in restoring your team’s confidence. Illuminating beacons of hope throughout this ordeal can provide much-needed assurance that, collectively, you are all going to get through this. Optimism is in high demand, so do your best to supply your team with it.
Be transparent and available. Face time with your employees can be done remotely, but the assurance you’ll get from your team that they know they can count on you is genuine. Including your team in the decision-making process, soliciting feedback, and hearing about your team’s concerns will only strengthen your bond.
Lead with empathy. While you may have to compartmentalize some of the daunting realities that come with your position, your team may not have a tight handle on the emotional toll this pandemic is taking. Considering their anxieties and feelings is important and your display of empathy will reassure them you are focused on their wellbeing and success.
Use this reset to abandon stale operations, overhaul structural needs, and improve your business. Those longstanding rules performed under the pretense of “that’s the way we’ve always done business” must be reevaluated. Liberate yourself from old systems and patterns to reclaim your passion and innovate.
Who you are in times of duress defines you as a person. This occasion will test your strength as a leader. As insurmountable as the reality of these conditions appears, it is the perfect driving force for a leader to step up to the challenge and push their team and themselves to new heights.