chief executive officer
This Week in Leadership
Purpose is Powering Through the Pandemic
Best-selling author Dan Goleman on why “stakeholder” capitalism, defying skeptics, has gained more traction during the pandemic.
Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry and the author of Leadership U: Accelerating Through the Crisis Curve.
Disappointment and negativity? Or hope and positivity? It’s a choice—our choice!
What we had thought would be a 100-meter sprint has turned out to be a decathlon.
To get some perspective, we looked no further than those who know all about waking up without the alarm clock, one day at a time, to achieve one goal—usually for years, sometimes decades. Our Global Sports practice reached out to a few Olympians who were supposed to be in Tokyo right now. Like other Olympic athletes around the world, they have trained for years for a chance to spend a few precious minutes “on the podium.” They were prepared, physically and mentally, for Tokyo 2020, but instead must wait another year—or even longer.
Their wait, however, is hardly passive.
“I am still training. I am the reigning Olympic champion and I would like to defend my title,” said Tianna Bartoletta, who won gold in 2016 in the long jump and the 4x100 relay team event, as well as gold in 2012 with a world-record time for the 4x100 meter relay.
Her motivation to stay focused, in spite of an uncertain future, comes from embracing the process—“practicing for the sake of practicing,” as she told Jed Hughes, a Korn Ferry vice chairman and sector leader for sports. “I believe no effort is wasted.”
Most of us will never compete in an Olympics. We will never know what it’s like to be on the podium. Our goals are less defined and more intangible. There won’t be a closing ceremony that marks the end of the pandemic. And yet, all of us have our own “Olympic Moment”—and what it would mean for us to be “on the podium.”
“It’s probably more difficult for people who are not athletes because there isn’t anybody waiting at the finish line with a gold medal or a parade for having pulled it off,” Tianna said. “They’re waking up and not knowing if their work is going to be validated or acknowledged, not knowing if there will be anybody who says, ‘good job.’ And yet, they still have to do it.”
Her wise words are a reminder to leaders that we also must be coaches—encouraging and celebrating others.
In addition, we all need to adopt an “athletic mindset”—in other words, each of us is only as good as our last game. A personal best yesterday won’t assure a personal best tomorrow. What happened last quarter no longer matters. We’re in a new day—the game has been reset for everyone. So, rather than focus on what’s not happening, we need to make things happen. Learning becomes our oxygen to fuel self-improvement.
Along the way, there will always be things we cannot control—whether an opponent or a pandemic. But there are things that we can control, such as our decisions and our goals. As Olympic runners know, it’s all about “focusing on your own lane.”
While our podium moments are to be cherished, it’s the journey that really matters. In other words, the destination is the journey! And we must journey together. In the words of an African proverb shared with me by an executive the other day, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Here are some thoughts:
Is our true North Star our purpose, mission, and values?
Do we proactively listen with empathy?
How are we celebrating others?
Are our employees seen?
Do we have an explicit opportunity mindset—can vs. can’t?
If we are waiting for the “podium,” or for others to believe in us, we may be waiting a long time. Instead, we must believe in others.