Inspired leadership is more critical now than ever. It should be painfully apparent to all of us that dynamic leaders in touch with the values and spirit of the people they serve are needed at all levels of the public and private sectors.

We are going through a sea change in this country, not just a change in our financial institutions, but a change in how we think of ourselves, what we believe, how we will survive and what the future holds for our children.

Change always shifts priorities in a society or an organization. Change, imposed from the outside or chosen from the inside, will change the needs of group members, as we have seen in the last year. People’s priorities and what they expect for themselves have changed dramatically. The emotional value of our homes, what we want from work, how we spend our money, our image of ourselves as breadwinners and parents – all these are shifting.

Since change is a given and fully upon us, the question is how effectively will we adapt to it? Flexibility in our society and in our institutions and organizations is critical. This is not the time for rigidity and adherence to the practices and behaviors that led us into this crisis.

One of the most important functions of any leader is how he or she will navigate through this monumental change.

If you see yourself as a leader in any way, watch how the individuals you work and live with change when the environment changes. Watch how relationships change when change is imposed on them. Become a student of how your organization adapts to change.

Here are several things leaders in our government and businesses can do:

Let go of the past. We cannot change what has happened.

Open your eyes. Take a new look at the people who work with you and see the value, creativity and possibilities they hold. Stay alert to what your people need as their life changes.

Include others. Don’t try to steer your ship through this storm hanging on to the tiller by yourself. There is power in numbers and participation.

Don’t give in to fear. Fear is only a prediction of what may happen and it paralyses you and your creativity.

Be bold. Big challenges call for heroic responses. Can you be a hero(ine)?

Collective learning should be one of your top priorities as you navigate this period in our history. Adopt a stance of continually learning from what happens in your organization. Don’t give up on training.

Just as species that fail to adapt to a changed environment perish, so will we, and our institutions, if we don’t respond to what’s in front of us with power, grace and compassion.


John Thomas Wood is an artist and author of seven books on human behavior and three novels.