Adriana de Villa
Commercial Director
Expert Contributor

From Bosses to Leaders, From Leaders to Survivors

By Adriana de Villa | Fri, 06/18/2021 - 12:46

At the end of the ‘60s Fred Fiedler published his Theory of Contingency, where, in summary, he explained that negotiation is effective or successful depending on the interaction or relationship of the leader with his subordinates, and the control or influence that these leaders have on the situation. The corporate world exploded, no one wanted to feel like a simple boss anymore when they had the possibility to be leaders.

Suddenly, different evaluation models were developed and, today, we can count several types of leadership: paternalistic, democratic, positive, negative, coercive, charismatic and even coaching. When you realize that right now "all of us are leaders" perhaps, it just means that no one of us is, and for many of us, this “super-leader concept” is distorted and part of a fancy corporate bluff.

It does not matter how many courses, diplomas, masters or therapies we have completed, we cannot be leaders just because we finished a training course, or because we are in charge of people. When these discussions about what it is to be a leader would begin, they would become passionate and heated among all of us who prowl the corporate world. Then suddenly ... a global pandemic fell just in front of us.

This pandemic brought sickness, death and “locked down” all of us with fear and anxiety. Unemployment rates rose all around the world, along with despair, and an economic crisis emerged; we did not imagine what all of this would mean. Working from home became our best tool but being healthy and keeping our jobs were the most important factors. All of us, the leaders, asked ourselves, how do we contain the team? How do we prevent them from breaking down in front of sick colleagues or those who lost relatives? How do we survive?

Suddenly, important decisions began to appear, those we always avoided: whom do we dismiss or when do we introduce a salary reduction, and how do we keep smiling and saying that this is just a bad time and that it will pass? While all of this was happening, we all lost loved ones, got sick, felt anxiety and desperation at the uncertainty of our health, our job and our family.

One thing is certain: When we saw the stability we had built starting to break down, we began to act only on instinct, saying, "goodbye leadership course.”

José Luis González de Rivera, a Spanish psychiatry professor, published an interesting article on the psychotherapy of crisis in the Journal of the Spanish Association of Neuropsychiatry in 2001. He explained that the inevitably of crisis can transform, worsen or destroy processes, but it can also strengthen and optimize them. The mental crisis breaks the continuous flow of existence and makes us rethink the meaning of life.

“The distinctive element of the crisis is the conviction or internal decision that the situation is unsustainable and that something must be done to transform it. Motivation towards change is an appropriate response to the subjective perception of the nature of the crisis state," González wrote.

And so, we started to create, trying new things and failing many times. Several times we felt exhausted, we failed over and over again. There were times when a successful idea showed up and we sought to repeat it, to make it grow.

Hubspot and UBITS recently published a survey of more than 150 leaders from Latin America and Spain, where 49.4 percent stated that team integration and unity has been the most difficult thing to maintain during the current situation. This was followed by the culture of the company (22.7 percent) and the good performance of the area (20.1 percent). However, the most difficult challenges have been: assertive communication, not losing people's trust, and generating empathy for individual and collective circumstances. This is precisely what we have had to develop and strengthen the most.

It seems like the pandemic is coming to an end but the implications and traumas from it remain, as Edith Eger says in her book, The Choice: Embrace the Possible, survivors can continue to be victims long after the oppression is gone, or they can learn to cope and prosper.

Some see a strengthened work team that has matured alongside us; those who stayed and survived are more committed, more aligned and more convinced of what direction to take.

We, the survivors, have a responsibility to re-invent the way we do things, to break paradigms, to try and fail, and try again. The “Surviving Leaders” must now take everything we have learned and form teams that are more human, efficient and focused. We must change the way we work and capitalize on all that we have learned. We must stop reading leadership theories and create our own, accept our failures and start over. We should allow ourselves to feel indestructible and at the same time vulnerable, capable of reinventing and accepting ourselves in the reality in which we live. We have to shape our habits to the digital life and find a way for our collaborators to be more and more efficient in a healthier environment, to be a little wiser and less arrogant because in the end, as Confucius said, the wise man is always attentive to the impermanence of all things.

(Dedicated to the Atramat® team, as well as to those who are no longer there)

Photo by:   Adriana de Villa