Think Dirty Coping Toolbox (Founder Edition): Leading during Wartime

covid-19-crisis founder-stories leadership think-dirty

When the team pitched me on the idea of doing a series for each team member to write the way they manage mental health during COVID19, I immediately loved the idea. They have done great jobs offering their two cents on how to cope with our readers: coping with anxiety, distractions, exercises, stay at home things to do. I want to share my mental journey as a small business owner. Since many of our clean beauty brand parters also are also small business owners, I hope they will find comfort knowing that we share and understand them because we are one. Many tactical coping strategies have been covered by other bloggers or government resources. My contribution to this series is less about giving advice, but more about letting other business owners out there to know you are not alone feeling overwhelmed. On that note, I have been thinking about leadership quite a bit during this time.

I always thought leading is not an easy task during peacetime. Leading in a pandemic certainly is a true test even for the most experienced managers.

As a Gen X, I was trying to find a reference point when’s the last time I experienced this similar crisis moment. I remember 2008 the financial crisis, I was working as an art director in an agency. I remember the day when Lehman Brothers were shut down. 6 months later, I was out of work. At that time an employee, I was resentful but not surprised when I was laid off in the 3rd round. My managers at that time didn’t provide much clarity on how many more rounds of layoff will happen. I remember being anxious for the entire 6 months, waiting for the bad news dropping. I thought it’s the worst time in my life until I discover the bigger stress of being the boss of your own company.

Fast forward now, as a business owner, the more logical knee-jerk reaction to a pandemic led recession is cost-cutting. But my 2008 memory gives me some pauses. I reflect on the time how I felt as an employee and want to make a mindful and thoughtful approach to this pandemic. As a Canadian company, thankfully our government has provided some support for small medium-sized businesses that got impacted. The decision to leverage as much as government resources to overcome this challenging time and maintaining our headcount gives me peace of mind knowing none of my team will experienced the resentment I once experienced as an employee.

Leading during wartime reminds of being a pilot during turbulence. Pilots need to be the calmest and collected person in the room when the team needs you. You need steady hands to land the plane. When there’s turbulence you need to assure your team it’s going to be bumpy for a little while, but it is going to be alright. You need to put emotions aside and focus on the task at hand. Leaders make tough calls in timely and decisive manners. Leaders are empathic but firm. Leaders are clear about their stances and make the team feels understood. Leaders reassure in crisis.

While I manage my own company in sweat pants, remotely with poorly hand-dyed hair colors, steering the business (hopefully) with steady hands. Daily, I also watched and observed presidents, prime ministers, governors, politicians throughout this crisis. It’s clear who is showman for the TV ratings, who are the opportunists, and who is outright dangerous for their countries. There is only a handful of them act like an experienced pilot that gives us the cautious optimism we need.


Think Dirty Coping Toolbox (Founder Edition): Leading during Wartime was originally published in Think Dirty on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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