Leading in the time of COVID

Jayne Chater, Director, Leaderful

How women can excel in leadership during a global pandemic.

There’s no doubt about it – COVID-19 is having a huge impact on our working lives. 

Demands on us are changing. The focus of our work is shifting. Incomes are being affected. New opportunities are appearing, and for some of us, the path to success has vanished mid-step. Many of us are being forced to re-think what a career success story looks like. 

I challenge you not to let your leadership development plans get paused or your career ambition die because of COVID-19. “You can carve your own path, be your own kind of leader”, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and most importantly “we do need to create a new generation of leadership.”

When we think of a new generation of leadership, the first place to start is with you. What do leadership and career success mean to you?    

Career success is both objective and subjective as I see it, and what ‘success’ means will be unique to each of us. My own definition is this:

Doing work I love while making an impact, with people I like, continually learning, and deriving an income to be financially independent while being a positive role model to my three daughters.

What does this mean for my leadership? I am proud to say I have a leading role in developing women leaders in New Zealand for New Zealand.

What does success mean to you right now?

It’s very important you have your own definitions, as success and leadership are different for all of us. But remember, this definition is likely to change at times – especially during a global pandemic. 

All of our careers have been impacted in some way during this pandemic, either temporarily or permanently. Understanding the personal effect of this change is crucial to understanding the opportunities and risks for your career.

Maybe your work has altered, you’re working with new people, or the way you work is different. Whatever the change, keep looking for opportunities to help with your own career success.

Here’s a simple five step process I use with my clients – designed to support career success in times of change:

  • Set your GPS point: If you were to “drop a pin” in your location
    1. Where are you right now?
    2. What have you learnt about yourself in this global pandemic?
    3. What are your key strengths that have flourished during this time?
    4. What has brought you joy during this time?
    5. Where and how have you derived your income?
  • Set your destination point: For many right now, the destination point can’t be definitive. I suggest having at least a rough idea of direction, even if the end point seems a little fuzzy.  Focus on shorter time frames, perhaps one, three or six months, depending on your situation.  
  • Map your journey: Now is the time to explore all possible roads and opportunities – even ones you haven’t considered before. Don’t restrict yourself by focusing on the usual, comfortable roads. Some roads may be clear and familiar, others might be closed, some perhaps under construction, while others still dirt. 

What can you do now that you haven’t had the opportunity to do before? Perhaps it’s a portfolio career, working on multiple projects, setting up as a consultant, or moving industries? Remember you can detour any time you like!

  • Start driving: Action creates momentum – now is the time to be intentional and deliberate. Sit with your partner or a trusted confidante and define your success. Are you heading in the direction you want?  If not, can you detour? If you can, how could you dial up your success in the environment you’re in right now? Is it trying something new – updating your CV, researching companies you want to work with, or getting around to booking in time with someone? 
  • Notice the scenery! Remember to enjoy all the wonderful views along the way. Observe the change happening around you and notice the change you yourself are creating. 

Change is unsettling, but it’s also bursting with opportunity. Now is your chance to re-write your career success script. 

If you would like more information or support to develop your career, connect with us at

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