The turn of the year is always a time for both looking back, reflecting on the highs and lows of the last 12 months and looking forward with hope to the Spring to come. Given the exceptional circumstances of 2020 it’s all too easy to want to put last year behind us as quickly as possible – but before we do that we gathered some friends and colleagues for a ‘virtual roundtable dinner’ to reflect on what this ‘leadership in lockdown’ has taught us.

The talk was not all of difficulties, people talked of the positives of on-line working. Top of the list was the reduced travel time, as well as the ability to pull people together for one-off meetings to resolve emerging issues swiftly – and the opportunity to involve more voices from people working in different territories in these discussion without the constraints of travelling.

People reported that some on-line meetings were more efficient and ran to time as people were better prepared and individuals were willing to take turns to make their points. However, there was evidence of a trend towards meetings becoming purely transactional making it more difficult to get to grips with the complexity of emerging opportunities and risks. One thing this pandemic should have taught all of us is that those ‘low likelihood / high impact risks’ that we’ve all got somewhere on our risk register really do happen and we must be prepared for them. And it’s instructive that it’s not just the Covid19 virus itself but the consequence of an entire workforce having to work from home that has led to many of the changes we see in our businesses and which may be longer lasting.

Self-care, and support for the strategies that individuals have developed to sustain their own well-being, were seen as an essential part of leadership – and the positive impact that senior figures can have by sharing their own stories across the wider organisation is clearly evident.

Looking forward to 2021 – whilst this is a time of enormous uncertainty we can be sure that the future will not be the same as the past. This experience has changed us all. As individuals we have had time to reflect on what is important in our own lives and meaningful in the work we do – and to encourage the organisations that we lead to do likewise. There is lots of evidence of fantastic innovations emerging from the shock that society has faced this year – leaders have an opportunity in the coming months to uncover and channel this creative energy.

But right now, perhaps a leader’s most valuable role is to encourage everyone in their organisation – and all their families – to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Its only by building confidence in vaccination that we can build confidence in the economy and all that flows from that. And finally, as we look towards a spring that will surely come maybe a picture is worth a thousand words…

So with hope in our hearts and care in our actions – here’s to 2021