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This Will Define You

Written by: Vanessa Giannos, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


"The true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis." – Brian Tracy.

People are Looking To You

As a leader, you are called to balance the needs of different stakeholders and to make some tough decisions. Each decision, each action, each behavior sends signals to your team and peers about your priorities and values.

And that is why a time of crisis or challenge is crucial in the life of a leader. Additionally, the people around you feel uncertain, vulnerable, and facing a barrage of professional and personal challenges. They are looking closely at you to determine what kind of leader you are and whether, most importantly for them, they can trust you with their wellbeing.

COVID-19, however, is no typical crisis. Even the best prepared Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) only scraped the surface of the issues encountered during this pandemic. There is no doubt that COVID-19 represents a VUCA event, that is:

  • Volatile – has a high rate of change.

  • Uncertain – has a lack of clarity about the present situation

  • Complex – has a multitude of decision factors

  • Ambiguous – has a lack of clarity about the meaning of the event.

With these characteristics, this pandemic and new VUCA challenges mean we are in unchartered waters, and we all need to dramatically upskill our leadership capacity, competence, and capability to match. This is no mean feat.

During VUCA events, stress and anxiety can be high across the business, and this requires leaders to have exceptional emotional and relationship intelligence. It requires leaders to be authentic, vulnerable, empathetic, compassionate, and lead the business. Leadership is not about how you react to the challenges as they unfold. The effectiveness of your leadership relies upon how well you can engage your team, adapt to rapid change and unclear outcomes, and work to solve complex issues, and above all, know how to skillfully navigate your team and business through the uncertain journey.

A Crisis of Trust and Belonging

Recent research shows that globally employees feel less engaged and feel more isolated, with some recording a feeling of lack of belonging to be over 50% of employees. Further, trust for their leader has dropped dramatically over the last eighteen months.

A recent HBR article suggests creating high inclusiveness and feeling of belonging can improve “a whopping 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days”, which can results in millions on your bottom line depending on the size of your business.

But how do you create or maintain trust when you are uncertain to yourself and feel like you are only 'winging it.' That’s where authenticity and being a highly adaptive leader comes in.

Adaptive Leadership is Key

There is a chasm between being a ‘reactive’ leader (which 90% of leaders work from) and be a truly ‘adaptive’ leader. It is estimated that less than 10% of leaders have developed this level of competence and capacity.

Adaptive leadership is a term coined by Ronald Heifetz from Harvard University in the 1990s. He was exploring the leadership characteristics required in new and complex challenges where there were no conventional solutions – very similar to the situation we face in this pandemic. The term is taken from the world of biology, where adaptations occur in organisms to help them survive in changing environments. Eyelashes on camels, blubber on polar bears, and camouflage on chameleons are all examples of how animals have adapted to survive in harsh environments.

The same process of animal adaptation can be applied to leadership to ensure that your organization not only survives but have the chance to thrive over the course of this crisis and beyond.

In the next article, we’ll discuss more about adaptive leadership.

Where to Get More Information

If you would like more information on how to adapt and thrive, get in touch with The HR Experts International. We are Australia’s leading HR, Coaching & Training Consultancies. We work locally as well as globally, particularly in the UK, USA & ASIA PAC. We specialize in developing leveraged Human Resource Solutions and providing coaching and training to achieve outstanding results.

We help businesses and leaders grow, become more agile, more adaptive, create amazing and engaged cultures, and become talent magnets. We work with you to develop your Employer Brand, build your reputation, create a community of engaged employees and rave customer fans.

Get in touch to discuss your needs: Book your free consultation today.

This article is intended to provide commentary, education, and general information only. It should not be relied upon as comprehensive or legal advice. Formal legal advice may be necessary for particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this article. The HR Experts International is not responsible for the results of any actions or inactions taken based on information in this article, nor for any error or omission in this article.

Want to learn more from Vanessa? Follow her on Facebook and Linkedin. You can also visit her website to get in touch.


Vanessa Giannos, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Vanessa is an International Master Behavioral/Neuroscience Coach and Master-qualified Human Resources and Organisational Transformational Expert. Vanessa has strong demonstrable success from 25 years of local and global experience in senior HR and Executive leadership roles in a breadth of industries and sizes of companies. Vanessa’s helped thousands of people develop their careers, skills, competence, and leadership capability. Vanessa’s passion is to assist individuals and organizations in growing, thrive, and transform to achieve their highest potential and goals. Vanessa is a certified DISC and Leadership Circle 360 Facilitator. Vanessa also specializes in Organisational Culture, Change Management, Communication & Influencing, Human Organisational Design & Development, Merger & Acquisitions, Performance and People Management, Employee Engagement, Customer Experience, Strategic and Operational Planning, Team Building, Management & Leadership Training.



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