Pandemic Leadership: Get to Know the “Back Up”

thebackupYou’ve lived with constant anxiety.


Worked too hard, too long. Hunkered down. Applied for the loans.

Stopped eating, or eaten too much.

This is what it means to be a leader in pandemic survival mode. And you’ve had enough.

But what do you do? It seems that with every turn, there’s another dissatisfied customer harping away, another employee complaining about the way things are being done. There’s another budget slash, another scheme to create for staying afloat.

Emotional reactivity has its occasional place in leadership, but during a crisis, leaders — with shot nerves and not enough downtime — fall back on being reactive too often. Even as you realize this creates even more anxiety in your team, your clients, your kids or whomever it is you are leading, you may not be able to stop. Especially because it seems at every turn, those we are leading give us plenty of reasons to react!

How do we remain effective leaders when we feel so frequently provoked? Share on X

As I’ve been helping leaders emerge from pandemic survival mode, there are about ten skills I’ve been recommending. Today I am going to talk about a little big one I call, the “Back Up.”

When you find yourself provoked, where do you notice your energy is located in your body? For me, it is all in the front. Often, I feel as though my energy is being drawn out of the front of my body through my abdomen or chest, and pulled into a dance with whatever or whomever I am grappling with. This is a signal that I am activated, off center and susceptible to adding to any drama.

When you feel your alarm bells go off, rather than engage in the tug of war and tug back with words, emotions and bright ideas, it’s time to Back Up. You know when a truck is backing up and it makes that beep, beep, beep sound as a warning? Making the sound inside yourself can actually be useful, and helps keep a playful attitude.

The next thing to do, assuming you have caught it in the first place, is take a breath, plant your feet firmly on the ground and pull your energy Back and Up, towards the back of your neck and beyond, sort of like a camera panning out in a movie. Keep your gaze soft as you do this. Take in your surroundings. This is not withdrawing from the person, situation or content in the e-mail — simply from the invitation to spar.

Backing up slows you down and gives you perspective, and more time to see the situation clearly. Then you can contemplate your response, by asking: What do I want the outcome to be? You may want or need to negotiate, sleep on it, correct the provocateur, or readjust your position. Assessing the situation with thought rather than leading with your feelings is a powerful way to emerge from survival mode and engage your creativity in leading.

Backing up slows you down and gives you more time to see the situation clearly. Share on X

This, mind you, takes time, effort and practice. Your patterns of simply reacting to what people do and say will be challenged. Keep watching how your responses bring you closer to or father from the outcomes you want. While noticing your feelings provides you with essential information, following them while leading can keep you swirling in the panic of pandemic energy.

Back up, and with time and practice you will learn how to stay with yourself, return to the task at hand, and step gracefully with right action into the next moment.

8 responses to “Pandemic Leadership: Get to Know the “Back Up””

  1. I find getting myself connected to the ground is the most important. Then I can pretend I am a tree swaying in the wind.

  2. Blair Glaser says:

    I love the image of the tree blowin in the wind . . . incidentally, isn’t that where the answer is, my friend?

  3. Rick says:

    I am trying to learn the art of being responsive rather than reactive…I taught it to a tech acct. exec today…she wrote it down.

  4. Barbara Kyle says:

    This is such a great article. It’s easy to get sucked into thinking that I have to be right sometimes. I’m pretty easy going until I’m not. I love the truck analogy. Thank you.

    • Blair Glaser says:

      I know what you mean about being right. So glad the truck analogy worked! Thanks for your comment.

  5. Kathy says:

    This is a succinct yet profound article. I see so many areas in my life that the art of backing up can apply. So much relevant in this COVID time when we are prone to panic, trauma, and negative vibe.

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Agreed, Backing Up does have broad applications, Kathy! Thanks for reading and chiming in. 🙂

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