Leadership is a difficult concept to master when times are good and an extraordinary challenge during complicated periods. Dare I say we are in a complicated period?

The pandemic has created a public health crisis and fiscal storm which has evolved into a political conflict and is further compounded by social tensions. No challenges there…right? Gosh, could times get any more complicated?

As a leader, I have tried to be aware, creative and flexible to meet the needs of my work colleagues and the community we serve.

Awareness is the first step. In modern times, demographic and experiential divides have never been more pronounced, debated and visible. As leaders and chief advancement officers we must be keenly aware of the many extremely dynamic and important societal issues we face. It is also necessary to be conscious of the impact these issues are having on our colleagues, institutions and constituents. Just as importantly, we need to know how to balance our viewpoints with those we interact with. It is essential to be bold and purposeful, yet aware of how our words and actions affect others.

Creativity is the elixir of life. During the pandemic it has been a delight for me to witness the explosion of creative thought that has evolved from uncertainty. The binding chains of routine and habit have been forced to give way to the process of innovation and re-engineering. As a leader we must embrace change and lead our people into uncertainty. Empower your teams to ideate and pivot. Instead of fearing the unknown, individuals and groups will find comfort in influencing their own destiny.

Flexibility isn’t just for yogis. Working remotely has taught us to be more understanding. We have clearly become more reliant on technology and internet communication, but thankfully it has also brought us closer together as humans. Environments have been dramatically altered but this has allowed us to be more empathetic leaders. The “good old days” of casual clustered water cooler connections have been substituted with Zoom calls and chat box discussion so it is time to embrace your inner yogi and determine what flexible means to you and your team. Our institutions’ long-term success will require increased ingenuity and adaptability.

We are all living and working during incredibly challenging times. Disrupted work arrangements, stressful family dynamics and financial pressures are all contributing to increased tension and discomfort. As professional fundraisers we are generally upbeat and optimistic by nature. We are glass half full, role up your sleeves, get it done kind of folks that elevate energy levels and drive optimism. Never has our role as Chief Provider of Inspiration been more important yet harder to fulfill.