Candid Thoughts and Ideas from Fireside Chat on Leadership Post COVID-19
with John Bittleston and Yen Lu Chow, moderated by Lita Nithyanandan

COVID-19 is compelling us to re-think Leadership, especially the decline of authority which has been on a downward slide for a long time now.


Recent events highlight a disregard for authority in many places in the world.  This is one core theme that leaders have to pay attention to.


There are many good leadership examples to take note of during this time but there is also a dichotomy in this situation with examples of really poor leadership.


What is leadership about? What are we supposed to be doing? In an article by McKinsey, Hubert Joly, the CEO of Best Buy, talked about leading with purpose, humanity and creating an environment in which others can be successful.


The 3 E’s of leadership used to describe John’s style of leadership in Cerebos – Encouraging, Enabling and Enduring. Enduring – through time, relationships are built between leaders and their team members  that endure beyond the time with the company.


Leading with the heart and exercising compassion and empathy. How to balance this in the workplace where we are results driven. Measurement of performance is a management function, however leadership sets the stage for how people learn and grow. Touching the heart of the people you work with and leading with purpose and humanity are core traits that leaders need to develop.


Leadership is a relationship and to be a leader you need followers.


How do we approach mistakes, can they be celebrated?

For example,  in Cerebos when huge mistakes are made, it was celebrated with champagne as a learning opportunity that the whole leadership team can benefit from.


·    Curiosity: is a key attribute of a good leader because it helps the leader to think about what’s coming, what’s happening and what we are doing about it.  Other key attributes include :

·      Perception: reading others – attending to the first signs

·      Courage: to make mistakes and make a stand for what matters

·      Caring: for others gives you enormous ability

·      Steady nerves: to think clearly and execute in a timely manner

·      Brevity: in communication in order to heard

·      Humility & Selflessness: in putting others first


Expanding on idea of perception, developing Integrative Awareness is an increasingly important trait of a good leader in the VUCA world we all live in. To be aware of what one is experiencing inside while taking in what’s outside through mindful sensing. Being able to sense the vibration of the heart of another person is another very important quality of soulful leadership.  The resonance between the heart of a leader and followers (based on research  from the HeartMath Institute) that the vibration of one’s heart can be sensed by others around them).


Compassion, Love and Empathy are other qualities that a leader needs however a leader also needs to be strong and there is a place for tough love and making tough decisions.


Compassion is being with the suffering of another with a fierce heart - a very powerful force.  With compassion comes true courage.


The world has changed from being very process driven where things were manufactured efficiently and applying that process approach in how we manage people is causing problems.


We need people to buck the trend of process, to try out other ways of doing things, let people make their own mistakes.


Stop teaching people, let people start learning.


Leaders have to learn to become mentors. Good mentors ask good questions. How do you develop the art of questioning? – one way is to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about the other person.


Learn how to read people better, create a picture around your mentee to see something more in him/her. Invent stories around that person, something bigger than they are. Invest this person with a personality.


It’s about seeing the potential in another human being. It’s about an unconditional regard for the mentee - being non-judgmental and seeing them good and perfect as they are.


Three aspects of a mentor and leader: self awareness, self acceptance and self actualisation. It’s about a co-evolution of both mentor and mentee.


Emotional intelligence is an important intelligence that leaders need to develop.


Measure of a good mentor and leader – has your mentee achieved what they wanted?


As a leader you need to be able to forecast everything - build that muscle with even the smallest of things you do.


Empower people to carve their own paths.


Stay tuned for our next installment -Part 2 on Leadership Post Covid-19 

Mentoring during the pandemic
John Bittleston