Holding Steady

hands holding hot cup of tea

Things are unnerving right now. Unfamiliar. Unsettling. Everyone is anxious and afraid, unsure of what to do. 

And that’s okay. This is a scary time. 

At the Conscious Leadership Academy in The Nonprofit Institute, we practice a different type of leadership. It’s not one that prioritizes the bottom-line at all costs. It doesn’t promote command and controlling styles of making decisions and it doesn’t praise the all-knowing leader.

It’s quite the opposite, actually, and conscious leadership can help you navigate a situation like the one we are facing with COVID-19. We believe that everyone can do leadership, and in times like these, especially, people are finding themselves needing to lead. Perhaps you are a school teacher leading your students through virtual learning. Perhaps you are a director or manager needing to be flexible with your employees as they deal with their kids home from school and seek childcare. Perhaps you are a small business owner needing to reassure your team who relies on their paycheck. We need leaders right now. 


One thing to remember is that while the virus is contagious, so is panic. One main task of leadership is to hold steady amidst the chaos, confusion, and complexity. Here are a few of our leadership principles that can help guide you.

Hold steady- This is a primary aspect of conscious leadership. Holding steady means you remain centered and present when everything seems to go awry and hit the fan. It does not mean you have to deny or suppress negative emotions. In fact, naming and accepting our feelings can help ground us to the present. Taking deep breaths before reacting or responding. Getting outside for some air. Recognizing that extreme behavior that stems from fear isn’t going to solve any problem or help us in any way. Taking the time to consider and get perspective with a centered mind will help us make much better decisions. 

Mind our words and actions- I’ve heard so many extreme phrases over the last week. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve ‘this is CRAZY!” in the last week. We are looking to place blame, so xenophobia has surfaced. I understand this is a very unique time, however, we can mind our words and actions and be more conscious of what we say and do. Finding grounded language will also help our minds stay calm. “This sure is unfamiliar” and “this is making our lives look very different right now,” is a better lens than “this is crazy!” 

And, if you feel compelled to buy a lifetime supply of toilet paper and 88 boxes of pasta, please consider if that is really necessary. Maybe we leave some for those who are waiting to get paid or purchase groceries week by week. 

Be curious- Curiosity is a huge part of conscious leadership. Replace judgment with curiosity is a foundation for our leadership mindset. How does that apply? Well, organizational leaders are making decisions on an hourly basis. Instead of being critically judgemental of the decisions, stay curious and open about how to best move through this. Instead of pretending to know answers you don’t, let your people know you are taking in information as it comes. As you attempt to make sense of the changes, stay curious about how you and your family are reacting. I began the weekend irritated and angry that an event I was looking forward to was suddenly canceled. However, as I invited myself to stay open, I was able to adjust and appreciate the time at home to get some other work done and do a few chores around the house. Help your kids stay open and curious as well. Begin rigid and judgemental will lead to anxiety and fear.  

Remain connected- We are told to practice social distancing, and yet, it is often our community that allows us to get through difficult times. Lucky for us, technology allows us so many ways to stay connected. We also can connect to the people we live with and our family members and friends that live close to us. Brené Brown is holding an Instagram live gathering. K-12 schools are doing virtual classrooms. We can continue to rely on each other. That is what has always got us through hard times. 

My mentor shared that some spiritual teachers have suggested that this virus is the larger universe’s way of telling us that we can try to build whatever walls we want. We can have whatever policies we want to keep people separate and excluded from one another. And yet, no matter what we do, we remain fully connected, reminded that we are one humanity. No one is spared. No one is immune. We are one. 

Conscious leadership helps in times like these. Stay grounded. Stay open. Stay present. Rely on each other. We will take this day by day. 

Stay brave. 

- Dr. Lorri Sulpizio, Director of Conscious Leadership Academy at The Nonprofit Institute


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