Leadership and Resilience: Finding Success in Seas of Change

Posted by Project Nation Guest Author on September 4, 2020

Leadership and Resilience: Finding Success in Seas of Change

By Sean McDermott, CEO of Windward Consulting Group

The last six months have been a very trying time for most of us both personally and professionally. Having managed companies through the dot-com bust and the Great Recession, I have seen this type of stress before. Today’s challenges are different, however, because we face ongoing adaption in our living and working environments for our safety and well-being. But every crisis creates the opportunity for each of us rise to the challenges of leadership. To not only navigate change for ourselves, but for others. There are countless stories of hope and success, creating a calm while weathering these seas of change. Take Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, a small business owner in San Francisco, CA that pivoted from wholesale baking to selling online baking kits nationally ─ saving jobs and opening a whole new line of business.

Leading through a crisis is much easier when you can at least visualize an outcome. I personally can't see what the current outcome will be, nor can I predict any timeline for the storm to pass. But the fact remains: sound leadership is more critical than ever. In this blog, I'm going to focus on how your business, its people, and technology can come together in the form of engaging and effective leadership to not only weather the storm and manage change, but find new opportunities for success.


[Webinar] Consulting Leadership: How to Make Bold Moves When It Matters Most

September 29 - 2:00 p.m. ET

Register Today


Taking Meaningful Action

So, how do you make this happen?  What I have learned over the past 30 years is that going back to the fundamentals is the first step. While many investors base their investment decisions on the three primary areas of management, market, and product, I believe that a successful business model needs to address several others including your mission, people and technology. By focusing on these areas, leaders can make more decisive, deliberate and creative choices that determine your business’s future.

MISSION. I'm not talking about a mission statement, but a real business mission. The thing that you are passionate about. Why are you doing this? Whom are you serving? Leaders need to feel this mission in their soul, in their being. And the mission needs to last the test of time because you will need to tap into the emotion of your mission all the time for direction and inspiration. Now is the time for leaders to go back and address that mission. Has your customer changed or are they no longer accessible to you? How can you get access despite that change? Strong leaders can tap into their mission at any time for guidance on their course of action.

PEOPLE. People are those who, with your leadership, execute on your mission. They need to believe in your mission; they must feel it. Do you have the right people to make it through this crisis with grace and vigor for your mission? Are they your A-Team and committed to weathering the storm? If so, give them space to be creative, to bring new ideas on how to serve new customers or pivot your products to serve a new need. Go above and beyond to ensure they feel connected to you and the rest of the team. Understand their goals and consistently offer opportunity for career growth. Be sure to focus on their mental health and work-life balance. Stress is a real issue and exacerbated by the complexities of personal lives and increased pressure at work. Leadership means seeking out the best, and doing anything to keep the right people, and keep them happy. 

TECHNOLOGY. The leveler in any industry is technology. You can't succeed in the modern world without embracing it, and assessing its ability to bolster processes, automate, and innovate. If you don't, your competition absolutely will. Your customers will demand it. We saw this when gyms closed around the country, Peloton soared, and their stock increased 379% since March 2020. We’ve also seen how mobile delivery apps have become the restaurant industry's lifeline, allowing access to diners that were utterly cut off from their restaurants when the economy locked down. The most advanced leaders know that digital transformation is the future.

Requiring Creativity and Intention

CREATIVITY. I believe most business leaders and entrepreneurs are creative types. Not necessarily creative like artists or musicians, but innovative in that they started their company by recognizing a need, innovating products that filled that need, and developing models and processes for delivering their products and services. In times of crisis, you need to tap back into your creativity, reassess your markets, identify new needs, and adjust your products and service offerings to those needs.

INTENTION. Adaptive leaders don’t sleep on crucial decisions, they take bold action quickly. The leaders that will be successful in driving their businesses and people forward to success will embody intentional actions:

  1. Be intentional in finding time to be creative. And protect that time fiercely.
  2. Be intentional about being inspired. Read stories on other companies navigating this storm, even if they are in different industries. Inspiration is everywhere.
  3. Be intentional and schedule brainstorming sessions with your A-Team. Ask questions and listen. Afford them the freedom to explore ideas.
  4. Be intentional to give yourself a break. Working nonstop isn't sustainable or productive. Give yourself time to recharge and find joy or relaxation wherever you can.

As leaders, we are designed to deal with crises. Forging a new path will take work – work that only you can do. So, create space for your mind to wander, and get back into – as Guy Hendricks wrote in the Big Leap – finding your leadership zone of genius.

Join Us

As members of Deltek Project Nation, you know that good leadership means allowing yourself and your business to lean on solid people and technology to support your work efforts – creative decision-making is only part of the puzzle. To that end, we invite you to continue this discussion in an upcoming session in which I’ll address the tough questions you should be asking yourself as a leaders in your businesses. Please bring your leadership questions and creative spirit to a live Q&A-style webinar, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 2 pm ET, in which we’ll discuss how leaders can make bold moves when it matters most.

Wheels Up!


About the Author

As a serial entrepreneur, Sean McDermott has worked for more than twenty years to assist hundreds of global clients and the Federal Government in the design, development, and operation of large-scale IT networks and data centers. In 1997, Sean founded Windward Consulting Group to help CIOs strategically transform IT from a “cost of doing business” into a competitive business differentiator. As CEO, Sean sets and manages the overall direction of the company including the firm’s service offerings and strategic partnerships. Since then Sean has also founded a number of additional companies including RealOps (acquired by BMC Software) RedMonocle, App47 and Helix Ventures. He regularly blogs on topics of leadership technology on his WheelsUpWorld blog.