It’s time to choose.
If leadership is a series of choices over the days and years, a single moment won’t make or break you. Unless you allow it.
In the aftermath of this crisis: Will I give in to the fear that may arise…or will I step up and lead others into a better future? Today or six months from now, it’s up to me. It’s up to each of us.
In March, we witnessed a group of leaders who demonstrated extraordinary leadership during this time of global turbulence.
During a four week sprint in Rising Talent, a private session of altMBA, emerging leaders at Fortune 500 companies had the opportunity to build essential leadership skills. Using an innovative new learning method, they showed up after work and engaged in deep, digital immersion — students led peer-to-peer discussions and practiced empathy, critical thinking, decision-making, and leadership at a whole new level.
It was messy and challenging; exactly the type of training senior leaders need to activate their potential, and exactly the type of training they rarely get inside organizations, where resources most often prioritize executive programs and time-consuming, expensive, in-person training.
We thought to reschedule, but were stunned by our students’ tenacity and commitment to themselves and their peers. They managed work-from-home, family & personal commitments, all while excelling at senior-level roles at their companies. Covid-19 challenged us all at different levels, but this was a powerful reminder: as the rest of the world shuts down, it’s possible to open up new levels of connection and empathy.
“Doing altMBA during Covid-19 was incredible. It was challenging, but also the best time to do it because I saw how global brands solved problems inside a large organization. It helped me define immediate priorities and look beyond the crisis to focus on our future.”
Director of Innovation, Starbucks
“I’ve had a total mindset shift. I’m better equipped to deal with new challenges and unforeseen situations. — SVP, Global Entertainment Citi
“I’m much more confident as a leader; I make faster decisions even if I don’t have all the information & stick to them, even if they’re not popular.”
Senior Director of Marketing, Delta
“I’m much more engaged now and feel an urgency for change. Other training simply doesn’t test your limits to show you what you’re capable of.”
VP Innovation, Adobe
“I’ve totally re-framed how I connect with others by understanding their world-views.”
VP Brand Strategy, MetLife
Every participant in Rising Talent is nominated by someone else in the organization, usually a Chief Officer. We’re grateful to the executives who nominated students for this session, with optimism and a commitment to the future. Before the pandemic set in, they invested in their people to help them level-up and manage change, and we’re proud to have worked with them:
- Scott Belsky, Chief Product Officer Adobe Creative Cloud
- Pamay Bassey, Chief Learning Officer, Kraft Heinz
- Jennifer Breithaupt, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Citi
- Vivek Bapat, SVP Purpose and Brand Experience, SAP
- Luigi Bonini, SVP Global Product Innovation, Starbucks
- Stephanie Lilak, Chief People Officer, Dunkin’ Brands
- Shannon Schuyler, Chief Purpose & Inclusion Officer, PricewaterhouseCoopers
- Brad Hiranaga, Chief Brand Officer, General Mills
- Robin Aubrey, VP Head of Talent, Audible
- Rahul Jaising, Managing Director Prime Services, Barclays
- Christ Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer, Chipotle
- Tim Mapes, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Delta
- Lisa Gary, Chief Learning Officer, Trane Technologies (formerly Ingersoll Rand)
- Gail Horwood, Chief Marketing Officer, Kellogg Company
- Esther Lee, EVP/Global Chief Marketing Officer, MetLife
- Amy Brooks, President Team Marketing & Chief Innovation Officer, NBA
- Penny Baldwin, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer, Qualcomm
- Brittany Forsyth, Chief Talent Officer, Shopify
- Harley Finkelstein, Chief Operating Officer, Shopify
- Neil Blumenthal, Co-founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Warby Parker
You don’t need a crisis to become a leader, but it helps that when one hits, your teams are ready for it.
These Chief Officers empowered their leaders with the skills to survive tough times, but also to lead their organizations to the other side.
“In moments of crisis, people come first. Every individual feels the impact differently, so leadership becomes even more personal. Leading with empathy is the single most essential skill; to be more visible, more authentic, and to create a spirit of transparency and trust across teams.”
Vivek Bapat, SAP
“Leaders need to communicate often and be transparent with their people; that’s how winning organizations will emerge from this crisis: when they put their people first.” Shannon Schuyler, PwC
“The leaders of today and tomorrow, need to provide thought leadership and create a culture of creativity, collaboration, and innovation. They need to be able to inspire a team to create a greater future for the brand, customers, communities and world, and they need to do all of this with a great deal of empathy and compassion.”
Jennifer Breithaupt, Citi
“While the situation we find ourselves in came about almost overnight, the process of restoring “normal” will involve a long and winding road. Ensuring those in your organization are fully ready for that, that your culture reflects empathy for the challenges that come with that, and that as leaders we personify patience at the very moment many around us are losing theirs, will determine organizational competitiveness.”
Tim Mapes, Delta
Our future holds possibility. It always does. But it demands leaders who can go the distance with grace and who hold the vision of what’s possible, not the fear of what may come. As we get our bearings, these leaders will be the ones who emerge on the winning side.
The arc of leadership is always unique but it rarely changes.
No matter the circumstance or time, the right time to lead is now. There’s no “good” time to take the next step, it’s simply in this moment that we can choose to lead.
In October, we’re thrilled to bring together a group of 150 leaders for our final session of the Rising Talent altMBA in 2020. Curated to fifty Fortune 500 organizations, we’ll help these leaders turn this unprecedented level of change into practical opportunity for their organizations.
We’ll do it again because it works. And because when you don’t allow a pandemic to define you, you get to decide what does.