Personal Leadership amidst COVID-19
By Jodi McBride, Instructor of MA LEAD and Executive Director, Read Right Society
When I was first laid off work from my nonprofit because of COVID-19, I thought, “Excellent. I can rest and spend time with my daughters like I used to when I was a stay-at-home-mom.” I miss waking up with my daughters, taking time to make muffins and eggs for breakfast, spending days crafting, gardening, and teaching them mini-lessons throughout each day. Those days were lost to me when I was propelled into single-motherhood, and rebuilding my life.
I could have continued working from home, but knowing COVID-19 would challenge and potentially force many nonprofits to close their doors permanently, I chose to take a leave, sparing Read Right Society my wage. BC Nonprofits and the Impact of COVID-19, showed 15-19 per cent of nonprofits were facing closer and 23 per cent feared not lasting more than six months (Vantage Points, Victoria Foundation and Vancouver Foundation, 2020). I did not want to be one of those nonprofits. Nor did I want to contribute to spreading COVID-19 in any way. So, I temporarily closed our social enterprise, Swetexel Daycare and Preschool, and shifted literacy and life skills programs online, allowing some staff to work from home.
I looked forward to spending time with my family and shifting my work focus to only teaching in TWU’s MA LEAD. However as each day came and went, life slowed down, my mind began to percolate old memories, unresolved trauma, fears, and insecurities. In stillness and silence of COVID, I was forced to listen to my own mind. I succumbed to my ego’s preoccupations and fears (Rohr, 2018). It was an ugly place to rest.
I teach LDRS 501, Strategic Leadership. As I began Summer semester online with 24 students (mostly international), I quickly saw most of us were stir crazy, feared COVID, feared isolation, and feared solitude with our thoughts. We were all facing our egos, wrestling and fighting not to be overcome by them.
Strategy originates from Greek stratos ‘army’ and agein ‘to lead’. Strategem, or strategy then is a military term describing a plan or scheme to outwit an opponent or achieve a goal (Lexico, 2020). To strategize and outwit COVID-induced wrestling with our egos, and become strategic Transformational Servant Leaders (TSLs) we must first peel back the layers of self, through personal leadership.
Personal leadership involves who you are as an individual, how well you know and manage yourself, and your willingness to engage in lifelong learning and development. This takes intense emotional intelligence and giving God our hearts, even if it leads to initial brokenness. Willingness to break, see the truth about ourselves, and acknowledge illusions we’ve created of ourselves opens space for God to fill our hearts and heal.
COVID’s isolation creates space for us to acknowledge and sit in our pain, feelings of inadequacy, disappointments, regrets, fear, and despair. But as TSLs we cannot fear COVID-19. We cannot fear isolation. We cannot fear facing our egos.
Instead we must move from self-awareness to God-awareness, “observing ‘me’ from a distance—from the viewing platform kindly offered by God” (Rohr, 2018, p. 53); A platform of unconditional love, forgiveness, and sovereignty. Romans 8:8 states the Spirit of God testifies with our spirit that we are in fact God’s children. We are loved by Him unconditionally, in all our brokenness. With this comfort, we begin to understand we are more than our thoughts and circumstances. Practicing God’s view of ourselves is the first step in practicing self-love, and as one of my LDRS 501 students said, “A leader should know the importance of self-love, before serving and leading others” (Anonymous, personal communication, 2020).
As a TSL I continue learning self-love, unconditional love of Christ, and freedom from fear. In addition to spending time with my family, COVID created a holding environment for me to slow down, break, face my ego, and do work I needed to do to heal. I am still working on it. In June, I reopened Read Right Society and Swetexel Daycare & Preschool. We do things differently now, and strategize how to handle possibility of a second wave of COVID-19. Whether or not we are forced back into isolation my personal work as a TSL isn’t over. Each day I dig deeper in the depth and breadth of God’s love for me, growing in confidence “that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6).
So how do you strategically move forward in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous time? Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way.
- Be still. Psalm 46:10 states, “Be still and know I am God.” Find a place to sit and be still every day. Let your thoughts come, but also let them go.
- Write down encouraging thoughts or bible verses and keep them in your pocket or purse. Bring them out throughout each day and read them.
- Trust God is taking you through something. Through implies there is another side. Remember Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”
- Pray strategically. Pray specifically about every area of your life: yourself, relationships, work, family etc….
- Journal. I’ve never been one to journal, but I started. Ability to read past entries and see growth is encouraging.
- Be positive. Think about the best thing that happened to you each day, write it down and/or share it with someone.
Part-time Instructor of Leadership
Anonymous. (April, 2020). Personal Communication.
Lexico. (2020). Strategy. Retrieved from: https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/strategy
Rohr, R. (2018). Just This. Centre for Action and Contemplation.
Vantage Points, Victoria Foundation and Vancouver Foundation (2020). No Immunity: BC NONPROFITS
AND THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 AN EARLY IMPACT SUMMARY REPORT. Retrieved from: https://www.thevantagepoint.ca/sites/default/files/no-immunity-report-hi-res.pdf