The uncertainty of 2020 has forced leaders to become more flexible, resilient, communicative and purpose-driven, writes Alaina Love, sharing anecdotes from executives and coaches. “I’ve found that when leaders have shown up authentically, teams have felt supported, and ‘OK’ even when they are not OK, because they know they are not alone,” says Liz Moran, global head of talent at AstraZeneca.




“I’ve been through some tough times as a leader, but 2020 has really tested my mettle,” a client of mine shared recently.

For many in the C-suite and those depending on them, this year has been a whirlwind of change and ambiguity — punctuated by anxiety and fear, marked by sorrow and loss for so many and, yet, buoyed by hope and possibility. The combined challenges of a global pandemic, heightened instances of social injustice and a polarized political environment has created a learning laboratory for leadership.

As we approach the end of the year, what, I’ve wondered, are the take-home lessons? What attributes of leadership were most critical for navigating in this unprecedented time?

As I queried clients and colleagues with these same questions, six key attributes were consistently cited as essential for leading in this dynamic, complex and still unstable world:

1. Flexibility

Because each day has been so full of unknowns, flexibility made the top of the list for many of the individuals with whom I spoke.“This year has taught me the importance of not getting too far ahead of myself,” said one client. “Even when plans were set, I had to learn to remain open to continued change … which is a hard lesson for those of us who are planners.”

Capacity to make rapid decisions despite the associated uncertainty of a world in flux seemed to factor into leadership success as well.