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A crisis is the ultimate challenge that forces evolution of a leader and COVID-19 has tested leadership like no other event in recent history. Safeguarding businesses, building resilience, carrying people through with no preparation, no experience or future predictions to rely on, will perhaps be remembered as nothing short of baptism by fire, by most leaders in years to come.

2020 has also been truly extraordinary with the genesis of several new leaders from previously ignored professions such as scientists and doctors. This year will often be cited in future conversations for the superior pandemic response of women country heads like Jacinda Ardern from New Zealand, to Angela Merkel of Germany, Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan.

In the backdrop of one of the most trying years in history, we recap some of the best leadership quotes which urge us to make a fundamental shift in how we must lead our companies into a better prepared future.

“ Do you want to be a leader that looks back in time and say that you were on the wrong side of the argument when the world was crying out for a solution?”

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister, New Zealand

“The CEO is of no more importance than somebody cleaning the floors or that takes a bucket and mops the floors. I think that this is a time as a reset where we really have to reevaluate how we treat workers, how people are paid, how can we get them into a role where they receive an equity as part of their compensation. All these things I think are important as we go through this reset in business.

Mark Cuban, Entrepreneur, Owner, Dallas Mavericks

“One of the ways we can cope with the uncertainty is: when you can’t imagine the future, you can actually rewind and think more about the past. You can recognize hardships that you’ve faced before. You can learn something from the lessons of your own resilience and then try to figure out “what did I do effectively before that might work for me today?

Adam Grant, Professor, Wharton

“I think this is a moment of reckoning for organizations and leaders. Companies that haven’t invested in their employees or thought about the value of engaging employees in the past are now reaping what they’ve sown versus organizations that have always invested in their employees and built their capabilities. Those companies can now rely on that bank of engagement capital and their employees will do what it takes to get the organization through this.”

Sarah Johnson, Vice President of Enterprise Surveys and Analytics at Perceptyx

“Now is the time for us to look after the people who work for us. When a company steps up at a time like this, it builds loyalty, commitment, and long-lasting teams.”

Arjun Agarwal, Cinerama

“A house must be built on a solid foundation and that foundation is provided by an authentic leader. As a leader, you must stand by your principles to set a standard for your organization and allow people to trust you even if it means losing a contract or facing testing situations. Thus, mission driven companies are winning and the ones all over the map are losing out. You will not get the best millennials because you make money, you will make money because you do other things well.”

Professor Bill George, Harvard Business School

To lead a company, especially in a time of unprecedented global crisis, I find we are laser-focused on our purpose. We know the how, what and why we exist. The team and I have never communicated better. Through great communication, we are learning, we’re adapting, we’ve become more nimble, efficient and effective.”

Mark Del Rosso, President & CEO, Genesis Motor North America

“In bringing vision to a company, it enables the firm to survive a crisis, balance short and long-term decisions and function with focus. Those with vision, purpose and cohesion will communicate better and take tough decisions in a better manner. These are the companies that will face recession and bounce back faster after Covid because the employees will believe in the country and the organization.

Lara Bezerra, International Senior Executive

“With the current health crisis changing norms, work-life balance is no longer a binary concept, but one that has evolved into a challenging confluence of needs between work, home, and family, all under one roof. As a leader in this new paradigm, it’s important to provide employees with flexibility in how and when their work gets done, and trust and empower them to find the right life balance in these trying times.

James Parker, CEO, Masergy

Time haunts those of us working to nurture the world into a more caring place. Time rules us as we work for fairness, justice and kindness. If we care deeply about alleviating unnecessary human suffering, we find ourselves stretched on a rack between a painful “now” and a hopeful “when.” I’ve come to believe that the real test of leadership is the ability to live there — in between — never letting go.

Angela Blanchard, Expert Practitioner in community development

“We are all navigating this new normal together. As we lock arms virtually and try and help one another in the ways we can, our vast world suddenly feels a little smaller and a lot more connected. And for that we are grateful.”

Michael Dell – CEO of Dell

“There is no way we are going to tackle a new economy and tackle the climate crisis without cooperation and multilateralism. I do believe there is hope, but we need to work fast and together.”

President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, UN Climate Press Release

“Ultimately, the greatest lesson that COVID-19 can teach humanity is that we are all in this together.”

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Biocon

While tough times never last, the wisdom from adversity does. We hope these quotes which capture the need to focus on purpose, people and humanity, become the guiding force for all of us in 2021.

Read more on the best quotes from HR Leaders in 2020

Discover more of the best quotes to emerge in 2020

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