The reality of a global pandemic is upon us, and individuals, teams and organizations are facing major change, disruption and uncertainty. This crisis presents unprecedented challenges because of its worldwide scale, unpredictability and speed.

Emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic require leaders to throw out most of their predefined notions about how to proceed. Gemma D’Auria and Aaron De Smet wrote in McKinsey & Company’s Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges:

“What leaders need during a crisis is not a predefined response plan but behaviors and mindsets that will prevent them from overreacting to yesterday’s developments and help them look ahead.”

One mindset that is helpful in any type of high-pressure situation is the Stockdale Paradox.

That term was first coined in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great (2001). Collins talked with Vice Admiral James Stockdale, who was a POW during the Viet Nam war. When asked how he survived his many years of captivity and torture, Stockdale didn’t credit complete optimism. In fact, Stockdale recounts that the total optimists died more quickly – as reality bore down on them and their hopes faded.

Vice Admiral Stockdale says that it’s a mixture of 1) faith that you’ll prevail AND 2) discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.

Today’s reality demands just that of leaders – willingness and ability to embrace both the quickly-changing reality/implications with a steadfast belief that the organization’s people can and will adapt and prevail.

Want to share how you’re responding in this time of upheaval? Comment below or message us.

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash