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University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

Leaders Share Key Takeaways From 2020

2020 brought a number of challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic to the turbulent presidential election.

As the year comes to a close, a few Michigan Ross alumni shared their strategies for how leaders can grow and thrive.


While 2020 had its challenges, one key lesson revolved around he importance of resilience.

“Creating resilience in yourself and your team is so important to manage change,” Michigan Ross Professor Lindy Greer, faculty director of the Sanger Leadership Center, says. “This can include consistently working to adopt a growth mindset in yourself and with your team.

And resilience can be found through a number of activities.

“Resilience is improved through activities which support healthy emotion regulation. This includes being personally emotionally healthy through exercise, sleep, and connections with others, as well as engaging in healthy conversations about emotions with others, such as taking the time to regularly acknowledge the emotions present in your team and helping everyone to reappraise situations to see positive pathways forward,” Greer says.


Leaders are often expected to carry the weight of their team and appear without fault.

However, that’s neither fair nor realistic. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that there is power in being authentic and vulnerable with what we’re going through.

“Leaders need to share more about who they are and how they are working through these tough times, rather than trying to appear infallible,” Tamika Curry Smith, president of The TCS Group Inc., says. “Be transparent and talk about what you’re struggling with personally and professionally — and how you’re overcoming those challenges. By showing up as humans first, leaders can help their employees push through the adversity and learn resilience, while still performing.”

True leadership is knowing when to ask for help and showing humility in what you don’t know.

“Especially right now, it’s incredibly difficult to lead — both in adapting to changing contexts and working with stakeholders who have very different needs,” Greer adds. “Acknowledging what one doesn’t know, enlisting help from experts, and taking ownership when things go wrong is more important for leaders now than ever.


In 2020, we’ve also learned that we all have strengths and weaknesses. It has exposed the weight we’ve been carrying through the years and taught us the importance of having empathy for one another.

“I think 2020 has been a ‘human moment’ in a couple ways. It’s been a time that has reminded us all of the things we have absolutely no control over (like viruses we can’t see or otherwise detect), but it has also been a moment to remind us all of what is most important,” says Emmanuel Legbeti, a Ross MBA who is now managing partner at Acretiv Partners and founder of GoalSeek Inc. “While COVID knocked the wind out of us all (and still is), it created opportunities for us all to reconnect — virtually but with more intention — with our kids, spouses, families, and friends.”

To that point, Legbeti adds, we need to remind ourselves of the very idea that we are all human at the end of the day.

“As leaders and business managers, we need to extend that same ‘human moment’ to employees and colleagues. To understand that they are home, trying to balance life and work (some with kids in tow) in uncertain times, and have genuine worries about family and their financial well-being,” Legbeti says. “As Michigan Ross grads, we know how to create a positive and engaging work environment even under these circumstances, so that our people thrive. As they thrive — and feel appreciated and acknowledged for rising to the occasion — so will our businesses.”

Sources: Michigan Ross, World Health Organization, Pew Research Center



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