Inspirational Reading – Covid’s Unexpected Side Effect: It Made Them Better Leaders

In the latest newsletter from American Express Business Class, I came across a link to an article by Lindsay Blakely, a writer for Inc:


A brush with the brutal virus brought fear, gratitude, and clarity to these business owners

Running a business while recovering from Covid is no easy task. For some owners it marked a turning point. A sampling of entrepreneurs share how being seriously ill spurred them to refocus, connect more deeply with employees and introduce new purpose-driven approaches to their organizations.

Lindsay spoke with four entrepreneurs about their experiences and how Covid has changed them as leaders:

Embracing Empathy

Cate Luzio, CEO of Luminary, tells the story of a how leader with a reputation for asking a lot of her people to one that embraces flexibility to give what her employees need. To survive, her business had to transform itself. Luminary had to shut its doors between March 22 and June 22, losing 80 percent of its revenue during those months as New Yorkers shifted to working from home. The company moved its events programming online and offered digital-only memberships. The 20-person team all took pay cuts so Luminary could avoid layoffs. 

Dialing It Down a Notch

In mid-March of last year, Ryan Kovach figured there was no time like the present to start his own company. After contracting COVID and being on the precipice of the hereafter, he came to understand the need to relax a bit and not see things so seriously. He put better tools in place for his people who need to step away and instituted unlimited time off: “You don’t even need a reason,” he says. “Just let me know you’re not going to be there.” 

Finding a New Purpose

In late February 2020, digital marketing agency Sweb Development lost its office building to a fire. Two weeks later, Covid shut down every office building. Despite these setbacks, including losing her mother and testing positive to COVID, Magaly Chocano was one of the lucky ones in that her business didn’t suffer during the pandemic. Even so, people losing their livelihood overnight profoundly shook her. To help businesses in need she formed the nonprofit In This Together, which facilitated gift-card buying to support both local businesses and organizations serving people in need. In eight weeks, In This Together raised $140,000. She also launched Safewell, a for-profit venture that developed re-opening plans in English and Spanish for businesses across 13 different industries summarizing local, state, and federal regulations.  

Going Bigger and Bolder

Jim Small’s bout with Covid last September was nothing if not clarifying. After testing positive for Covid, he found himself asking: Is this how I want my company to be? Is this what I want to be doing?” Small decided the time was right to be bold. As part of his plan to shift his company “from good to great,” in late 2020 he rolled out daily, weekly, and monthly metrics for every team member. “Daily or weekly, you didn’t know if you won the day,” he says. Now, he says, “everyone has their own personal scoreboard. While some employees find comfort in the clarity the new metrics provide, others have decided to move on. We can get more out of people, and they can get more out of themselves” with the right leadership, he says.

Final Thought: Over many years I have read great stories of leaders who, after a life changing experience, see the world around them very differently. You don’t need to experience a serious illness or death to undergo a cathartic experience. You can choose to change who you are anyway (yes, its possible). What each leader has shown us above is that letting go is a key step. It brings clarity of vision and purpose…

31 Comments on “Inspirational Reading – Covid’s Unexpected Side Effect: It Made Them Better Leaders”

    • I always need to see what’s under the rock, as you never know what you might find there 😊 COVID is no exception. I have been very lucky myself work wise during COVID. In fact, I have become busier, although I have put circuit breakers around what I do. Many of my colleagues have made the same comment. As I reflect on matters this week, I know that I could upscale and do the “company” thing, however, I am happy with my current capacity and I enjoy reflecting on what I need to do at home.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. It’s great to hear about some good that came from this situation Sean. I certainly understand how a terrible situation i.e. my mental health “breakdown”, can make you take stock of your life, make positive changes and become both a better person and a better leader.

    Liked by 3 people

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