It’s a Balancing Act: Delivering Conscious Leadership During Covid-19

From sleepless nights to gratitude for a hot cup of coffee on a snowy Montana morning; from anxiety driven by media overload to getting to know my team on a more personal level as we all work from home—this global pandemic, combined with its pull on our economy towards a global recession, is the ultimate leadership roller coaster ride. How do I show compassion, for myself and my team, in the face of such pressures? How do I bring conscious leadership to every interaction, when human connectivity is so precious in this time of intense social isolation? We’re all facing these challenges for the first time, as humans, as employees, as leaders, and as a global community.

Last week, I joined our global CEO Barri Rafferty and our Chief Organizational Effectiveness Officer Amanda Kowal Kenyon to present a virtual workshop for our global leaders, “Leading Through Uncertainty.” We focused on three major points.

First, we all benefited from Brene Brown’s insight that this is the FFT. Pardon the language, but she rightly points out it is the “fucking first time” in our lifetimes that we’ve navigated a global pandemic, shelter in place and social distancing. It really does suck. And, it looks like it will for months ahead.

Second, we looked at the importance of mindfulness and intention to consciously managing our energy.  There’s a reason that airlines tell us to put our own oxygen mask on first. It’s not our first instinct when we care for others, at work and at home. But it’s good guidance. We must look first to ourselves—at our physical, emotional, spiritual and mental well-being—so we can have the energy and emotional strength to carry others on the journey. Simple ways I do this are through daily meditation, getting outside for a grounding walk in nature, breath work, journaling and seeking community.

One very powerful practice that works for me is called “Ho’oponopono.” It’s a Hawaiian forgiveness practice using a simple mantra of four phrases. Just take five minutes and repeat: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you. We are human. We don’t always handle everything perfectly, every day, especially in times like these, so a forgiveness practice (like gratitude practices) is a very healing way to end your day.

Finally, we talked about resilience. When you start with radical self-care, you enable your inner strength to be resilient enough to lead, create and innovate into the new normal. Conscious leadership starts within. It’s beautiful to experience, but creating an environment to deliver it requires a commitment to self-care.

The new leadership muscles we are developing in this global crisis are bringing some hidden benefits.  This experience is hard. It’s the FFT. And we are all experiencing anxiety and fear. But we do have the power to reframe our situation as a moment to commit to self-care, compassion and consciousness for ourselves and for the communities we lead.

Ketchum author Hilary McKean

Hilary Hanson McKean oversees global marketing and corporate communications and complementary businesses in her role as president and partner at Ketchum, a top-five global communications consultancy.

Based in New York, Hilary is a graduate of the University of Oregon School of Journalism.  When she is not consulting on brand strategy and global integrated marketing campaigns, she can be found skiing powder runs in Big Sky, Montana.