A Leader is a Shining Light | Leadership in Times of Lack

Just because you have the money, doesn’t mean you have to spend it, hoard it, invest it or even distribute it. For entrepreneurs in the early stages of building their business, money management is the skill that makes them or breaks them. Unless you are a trained accountant or happen to have one on your team that really–and I mean really–understands the nitty gritty of finance, you’ll find that dreams have a way of turning into pipe dreams really quickly.

A state of having to not having–or not having to having–these are all phases of the cycle of commerce.

The other day I was at Changi Airport, an airport renowned the world over for global connectivity. Instead of being greeted by the bustling hive of activity that I’ve grown accustomed to seeing from a young age, I found myself in what appeared to be a ghost town.

How did this happen so fast and so quickly?

It has absolutely nothing to do with a decline in the quality of Changi Airport itself. The airport is still very much a state-of-the-art facility. But a chaos-creating pandemic had infected the world and turned the proverbial wheel of fortune upside down.

How do I even begin to make sense of a world where up is down and down is up?

It’s a pretty similar story in many places I frequent these days. The crowds are all gone–they have scurried home to stay safe. Retailers, businesses and institutions are all functioning at a fraction of their normal capacity. The global modality of life and how it has been and how it should be has out the window.

As someone who is growing two businesses in the midst of a global pandemic, I cannot even begin to tell you how many terrible ideas I have to contend with on a daily basis when it comes to money. The ideals, the entitlements, the doing-things-the-old-way when we know it’s not going to work right now.

I mean, why bother me with statistics and trends of how things worked pre-pandemic? How about someone come to me with solutions on how we can make the most of a difficult and challenging situation?

I think a fundamental change needs to take place on how we perceive, understand and harness the potential of commerce. So what are the shifts we need to make in our psyche?

As with all things to do with the subconscious mind, the shifts we need to make are not always obvious till someone points it out to you or fishes it out from under the sea to the surface.

Job seekers I meet are hellbent on a stable and regular job when people everywhere are taking a pay cut or being made redundant. Some individuals still feel they have all the bargaining power to ask for more when in reality there may simply not be more to give. Others want to spend precious dollars on items and ammenities that will in no way grow or develop a venture.

The ideas that we have in our head are largely irrelevant to the precarious state of affairs we find ourselves in.

Entire generations that have grown up in periods of modern comforts are feeling the squeeze (or even the slap) and have no idea how to deal with it.

So how do we deal with it?

Since time as we know it first began, seasons of scarcity have characterised our lives. Historically, the seasons of autumn and winter were a time of material lack. Our ancestors knew that they had to save and preserve during the spring and summer months or there simply wouldn’t be enough to go around when the contracting cycle of the cold months came around.

But do we have that kind of philosophy when it comes to money?

For most of us, I’d say no.

We are, in essence, refusing to face and accept the material realities we have to contend with. And putting a positivity quote up on social media doesn’t change any of that.

So what are the shifts we need to make? I took a deep breath and centred myself. I know that whenever I can’t find answers to my predicament in the external world, I can always look within. So that’s what I did.

Here’s what I discovered.

We must start with our foundation. Our feet. Most of us are stuck at home and unable to go anywhere. Instead of viewing this as a form of stagnation, we could potentially choose to view this as a form of stability. I remember having to slog on the train for hours on end when I used to commute for work in Tokyo and it was not a pleasant experience. If anything, I’d like to erase the whole episode from my memory.

Being at home grounds and centres us. We don’t need to waste time commuting and if we make the active choice to stay disciplined, we can put that time to other uses. Worrying about losing our footing in the world is simply not an option.

Secondly, although we are stuck at home, we still have the world at our fingertips. It’s called the internet. We can buy and sell there. We can find all the knowledge of the world on there. We can connect with people globally through a variety of means and mediums–especially now that people are more open to it.

While travel has come to a halt, the interconnectivity of the world is more prevalent than ever. We’ve discovered that we can pretty much do anything on the internet. Sure, we all miss the human touch. But perhaps right now it’s not about the individual, but about the collective. On the internet, there are no fancy offices or cars or any of that hype that gets us jittery in ‘the real world’.

We’re all just faces on a Zoom meeting.

In periods of downturns, we actually need people. It becomes harder and harder to be a lone ranger when times are tough. Even if your resources are running low, that is no reason to hoard; but rather to spend responsibly on things that have a return. It’s also an excellent time to give more. Even if you can’t spend money, you can still give your time, your energy and even your heart. All you have to is put yourself out there.

Another trend I’ve noted is that the great leaders are always born in a period of great crisis and upheaval. A lot of people I know wait for the perfect moment and set up before they go after their dreams. But one commonality I have observed across the board at the leaders that we remember–is that they were able to steer a business, a people and even a country out of chaos and into safe waters.

A leader is not someone who sits in a fancy office sipping lattes all day. In times like these, a leader is a shining light. A guide. A chief with a staff who splits the sea and guides his or her people to safety.

And lastly, I want to talk about something that doesn’t sit too well with modern sensibilities. A leader is also someone who also cuts through the crap and says NO. Preferably gently, but sometimes it’ll be a NO that reverberates through the entire collective consciousness.

In every business, I’ve always had the sense that one person needs to be a filter. This is not the person who goes fishing. This is not the person who cooks the fish. This is the person who sieves through the daily catch and decides what makes the cut and what should be released back into the ocean. This requires a different sort of leader. One who is receptive, perceptive and observant–and not one who is out there hustling.

My gut tells me that when up in down and down is up, we require different types of people to lead us and guide us. People that may have previously been shunned or ignored by society come to the fore. In the broken down structures of yesterday, we must look around us and recalibrate and rebuild.

If we fail to do so, we do so at our own peril. If, however, we rise to the challenges that life has presented us with, we may find that it’s only a matter of time before our ship arrives at a new shore…where brand new adventures inevitably await.

9 thoughts on “A Leader is a Shining Light | Leadership in Times of Lack

    1. In times like this, a leader must be a light, not just a resource manager that goes around telling everyone what to do. The world needs brave souls who can guide the way.


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