Mario Porcini é Senior Vice President & Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo.
A few days ago we were having a video call with our CEO Ramon Laguarta. At a certain point during the conversation he reminded us of how this crisis will both test our leadership and will also make us better #leaders. After the meeting I started to think about what that meant, in depth, digging into the very meaning of #leadership and in the definition of #crisis.
A crisis is a moment of intense difficulty, trouble or danger, and it’s a turning point that requires decisions to be taken.
Leadership is instead a need of the human species and as such it is directly connected to the Maslow pyramid of needs.
- We need leaders first of all for survival: to protect our community from threats, by keeping us united and organized. Together we are stronger: the leader is the glue.
- We need leaders for self esteem, achievement and success: they are the ones with the decision power to reward us and make us grow. And they are there to empower us too.
- And finally we want leaders to give us a sense of purpose: to give meaning to our lives, to answer the fundamental questions of why we are here and where we are going.
Understanding all of this helps us also realizing why today, in this #coronavirus crisis, we need real leaders more than ever. Political leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, emotional leaders, even influencers. At global level, at country level, at community level, even amongst friends.
And what should they do? They should work on those three dimensions of leadership: give us a realistic sense of safety, celebrate our achievements with empathy and love, to motivate us to act as leaders at our community level and finally give us purpose and hope in this moment of struggle. They need to act first and then tell, instead of telling without acting. They need to lead by example. But they also need to be able to tell the story of what they do, to inspire us all with words supported by actions. And to do so they need empathy and talent. They need to put people first. They need to show care and love, together with knowledge and skills.
Let’s think about how we can be leaders in our own communities, no matter if we are the presidents of our countries or the fathers/mothers in our families.
Are we warning, preparing and guiding our communities to protect them from the crisis? Are we doing everything we can to defend them from this invisible enemy, with vision and courage? No matter if that action is pissing people off, no matter if that action is impacting the interest of others, often the financial interest of others. No matter if people don’t understand you, no matter if it is too early for people to understand you. Because then they will, with time they will. But in that moment, when you are the first one to see things, it will be tough! For you and for them, in different ways. Are we reassuring them while warning them, are we projecting a sense of safety and security?
Are we celebrating the actions of others? Their resilience, their courage. Our nurses and doctors, our frontline employees, our people working from home, our families: each person is into this crisis in a different way and each person is doing his best to survive and strive. Are we recognizing and celebrating those efforts? Are we empowering others to act as leaders in their own context, 24/7?
And finally are we showing the way to our people? Are we spreading hope, are we trying to give a meaning to all of this, are we trying to identify a lesson and an opportunity in all of this, to better ourselves, to better the entire society, all together? To get out of this crisis stronger than ever. Are we being the leaders that the world needs, at any level and any scale, to beat this damn virus?
Real leadership is not a title or a position, real leadership is action and example, is love and empathy, is talent and skills, is the ability to take decisions and empower, to inspire and reassure.
We are at war, against an invisible monster, and now more than ever we need this kind of leadership. Before pointing the finger at the leader above us, let’s make sure we are are the first ones to act as leaders at our scale, even if that scale is as small as our family or our community of friends. This crisis is a test for leadership: if each of us lead by example and pass that test we will get out of this moment stronger than ever, individually and collectively, as people, as communities, as companies, as a society.