I will never forget the first time I went to India. I was sent there to oversee a market research project and was welcomed by my hosts, Mamata and Rajjat. I usually rent a car when I travel, but in India, I didn’t dare drive for several reasons.

The first one concerns navigation. While GPS works well in big cities, it doesn’t work so well in the countryside. That is not due to poor reception (even though that’s the case for some parts of the country); rather, it is because many streets have no signs, and many of the roads are winding.

As Pulkit, an Indian friend once told me, directions in India are given like this:

“After you see the tree on the corner, you will see a one-eyed cow. As you pass the cow, turn right.”

Of course, he was joking. But I totally know what he means.

In many countries, there are no formal rules of the road the way there are in countries like America. For instance, Brazil has lanes exclusively for turning left or right. Brazilians seldom obey these rules, however, because they know there will always be someone who will let them in. Not only that, but there is an unspoken rule in Brazil that if you follow the rules to a T, you are considered a bit too square and can be taken advantage of easily. This perception has been slowly changing, but I think it will take some decades to take full effect. Also, speed limits, stop signs and traffic lights are rarely acknowledged — unless a police officer, a speed camera or a red light camera is nearby.

I have been living internationally for 22 years, and every time I go back to Brazil, my friends tell me how lucky I am to live in countries where order exists and people respect the rules. My response is often, “Brazilians would obey the rules if they were more strictly enforced.”

A case in point: in one of my trips back to São Paulo, I was driving just over the speed limit (you didn’t read that) at Avenida 23 de Maio, and I noticed that everyone was going “really slow” compared to what they used to do. That’s when I noticed that there were speed cameras mounted along the road roughly every 200 yards! Who says that Brazilians cannot follow rules?

Going back to my time in India, the most fascinating aspect of driving there is the hidden code of conduct that is not apparent to the outsider. In Europe, the US and some other first-world countries, street signs exist that signal when to stop, when to go, and who has the right of way. As you learn those rules to pass your driver’s license exam, you become more competent as a driver. In India, some of these rules exist, but a more intricate and fascinating unwritten code of conduct is at play. It’s not explicit; it’s just known.

For instance, when you get to a roundabout, it seems like everyone is entering it at the same time, but there is such a magical flow that no car bumps into another car, tuk-tuk, motorcycle, bicycle, camel, cow, pedestrian. (You get my drift.) To a foreigner, it feels like they have a very developed sixth sense, like those schools of fish swimming in synchrony that we have all seen on nature channels.

In many ways, being a leader in the 21st century is like learning to drive in a different country. Some basic rules exist, like don’t run over pedestrians or kill people. But beyond that, the nuances and expectations of leadership do not adhere to a common set of principles and can change depending on what region you find yourself needing to navigate.

Coming from Brazil, I know what it’s like not to have rules. Compared to America, Brazil can look like a free-for-all, so where you come from can determine your leadership style, your expectations, and how you communicate.

Leadership in the 21st century needs an internal roadmap. New leaders often feel like they’ve just climbed behind the wheel of a new car and are on their way to Delhi, only to end up missing the turn at the one-eyed cow and finding themselves in Mumbai. Think of the Samurai Samba Vinci Way™ as the GPS for your new role as a leader. It can get you to your destination and guide you through new territories, helping you gain confidence even if you haven’t figured everything out yet. It can help you improve your communication skills and uplevel your executive presence. Because it draws on a centralized set of universal principles on being a great leader, anyone can use this GPS anywhere in the world and experience positive results while avoiding common communication pitfalls and problems, thus increasing trust on the way.

Takeaway Question: In what ways have you changed the way you navigate the new world of work? In what ways could you improve?

Excerpt from Claudio’s book “The Samurai Samba Vinci Way: How to Improve Your Executive Presence, Increase Trust and Lead Your Team at a World-Class Level” available on Amazon.
#leadership #selfawareness #culturaldiversity

As I sit here on a Tuesday morning in my home office, I am astounded by how our world has changed in such a short time frame.  Two weeks ago, my family and I were going skiing on Spring Break, we were looking at adding office space, I had just purchased furniture, I was planning a big extended family get-together, and we were hitting all of our numbers in the first couple months of 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down. Markets are volatile, the Olympics are delayed to 2021, there have been runs on supplies, and many of us know people who have tested positive for the virus.  Over the past week I have been in contact with numerous clients, family and friends concerned and bewildered.  We are all worried about our loved ones getting sick, our means to make a living, our healthcare system, and our country.  First, we ask how could this happen? Next, we ask, what kind of response do we need to have as we lead our families, organizations, and communities through this changing environment?  Finally,  we begin to realize how much we have lost already.

In a State of Grief
As psychologists, we are trained in Critical Incident Stress Management.  Over the years it has come in extremely helpful with our corporate clients.  Examples include debriefing traumatic events such as when a bank robbery occurred and tellers were traumatized, when a beloved co-worker died unexpectedly and grief was overwhelming, when a tornado devastated and traumatized numerous teachers and students in it’s wake, and, of course, the horrific aftermath of the Oklahoma City Bombing.  We rolled up our sleeves and jumped into these situations and saw first-hand how individuals responded when “our people”  were devastated, lost and fearful.  We, as a team, are seeing similar reactions with our current clients, colleagues and friends during this health and economic crisis.   We are seeing grief.  I had never anticipated writing a blog on a subject that is typically reserved for natural disasters and loss, but it seems very relevant this week.

Grief Response
Many of you took Psychology 101 in college and probably remember the 5 stages of grief.  This is absolutely what we are going through as a nation – we are in grief.  Many people are experiencing tremendous loss as a result of this global pandemic: loss of life, loss of loved ones, loss of health, loss of jobs and income. For those who are losing loved ones at this time, there is also the loss of the normal rituals of funerals and communities gathering to grieve together. The Kubler-Ross model outlines the five stages:  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  Acceptance is where you want to be.  I will say here, dear reader, that the quicker you can move your people to Acceptance and faith moving forward during this crisis, the better off we will be.  As you observe the responses at your team level and even at a national or global level, notice that they seem to break down in this way:

Stage 1: Denial
This stage manifests with statements of disbelief or challenges to given facts.  We all saw comments and reactions on social media and saw people on beaches and bars who were in total denial.  Examples might be:

  • This can’t be happening?  Are you serious?
  • The flu kills more people every year – what an overreaction!
  • It’s business as usual and I’m not buying the hype.

As a Leader:  Ensure you are making decisions based on real projections and facts.  There is all kinds of misinformation out there.  You will have to make quick decisions that will have far-reaching ramifications. Remember to address each of the facts in a way that takes into account the diversity in thinking on your team – keep the big picture at the forefront, be logical, have the culture and people in mind and give next steps or the logistical details.

Stage 2:  Anger
Once someone realizes that the bad news is in fact real, the next response is often anger.  This is when people’s emotions start to ramp up and logic and decision making isn’t at its best.  Examples of this stage would be:

  • This is ridiculous!  So stupid!
  • It’s going to cost us thousands of dollars.
  • Why didn’t anyone get ahead of this?

As a Leader:   Make sure you are self-aware about any anger you are feeling.  You, quite honestly, were probably having a pretty good year so far.  But letting this anger and “what ifs” get the best of you is a trap.  You don’t want to dig into that anger and make  blunders such as limiting information, passive aggressive comments, or “shooting the messenger” when you get bad news. Being as timely and as transparent as possible  in all your communication so that people aren’t having to guess at what is going on is key to moving forward.

Stage 3:  Bargaining
Bargaining is a more constructive stage and a turning point.  When I returned back to the office and realized what we were facing, at this stage, it almost felt like I was moving in slow motion…but then I started to look at the context of the situation.  During this stage, people start to gain some perspective and consider the bigger picture…and some potential trade-offs. They  might sound like this:

  • This is painful, but we can learn from it.
  • A temporary closure is costly now, but will save lives and get us back to normal quicker.
  • I may only get mild symptoms, but if my mom gets this, it could be fatal.

As a Leader:  It can take a few days to get here, but this is where you start to reflect and take a more level-headed approach.  This is when you start to feel a sense of control over the situation and therefore a sense of calm.  While you need to keep abreast of the situation, you definitely need to monitor your media intake at this time so that you can keep focused and not get distracted by how low stocks are and how many people have gotten sick in the last 24-hours.  Stay in the present and don’t get too far ahead of yourself.  Collaborate and get input from your team as to how you can pivot effectively right now.

Stage 4:  Depression
It’s hard not to feel down about the immediate future as you look at your options in a crisis like this.  I can’t tell you how many tears I’ve shed in the past week.  It’s easy to look at postponed events, canceled work, restricted travel and gearing up to be virtual in all interactions and then get overwhelmed pretty quickly.  This stage looks like this:

  • What’s the use, we’re all going to succumb in the current economy.
  • How will I pay my workers?
  • My business can’t survive a prolonged shutdown.

As a Leader:  The important thing is not to wallow or get stuck in that stage.  You do have to have those little breaks…you are human after all.  Allow yourself to feel the sadness and regret, but as soon as you can move to the next stage you will be energized and feel a sense of progress.  Word of warning here – do not skip over this stage with your employees either.  Listen to them and be empathetic.  Also, know that you may revisit this stage over the next few months.  Acknowledge it and move on.

Stage 5:  Acceptance
The sooner you and your team can get to acceptance and then faith you will make it through the better equipped you will be to make decisions and create and implement a solid strategy.  Having the faith to move forward is knowing that at our core we’re more than anything we will ever face, and we can handle whatever life brings us. We always have and we always will. That is the power of the human race.

  • This is what is happening and this is how we are going to respond.
  • We act fast and we act decisively in order to save lives.
  • We know what our core values are and in what direction the business needs to move.

As a Leader:  Faith is what fuels us through times of fear and uncertainty. It is more powerful than any emotion, even fear. When all hell is breaking loose, it gives us the ability to find our center, to help ourselves and others to find answers, to find a higher meaning in the midst of our pain and in spite of our fear. And if you’re a leader, you take that certainty and transfer it into others, because human conviction has a viral effect and will spread. You bring unwavering certainty to chaotic environments through the power of your acceptance and faith in your team and your deliverables.  That steady vision and faith in the outcome will serve you and your organization well.

We Are Resilient and Adaptable
This won’t be the only crisis this world will ever go through, and it won’t be the only crisis any one of us ever goes through, and it certainly won’t be the only crisis that anyone we love ever goes through. People are shaped not by how things go when things are going well; people’s lives are shaped by the most difficult times.  We have a resourcefulness that says no matter what happens in life, who I am is bigger than anything that could ever happen to me or anyone I love. No problem is permanent, and nothing that happens establishes who I am. Take this as a time to reflect on your accomplishments to date, downshift if you need to,  leverage your strengths and re-position yourself for the future.  You will be able to look back at this time in your life and tell stories about how we all leveled up and conquered an invisible threat…together!
Leadership is calling your name…