Navigating the Black Swan — A lesson in leadership

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

  • It is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility.
  • It carries an extreme ‘impact.’
  • In spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

The last known Black Swan event I was a part of doesn’t feel so far back — 2008, the financial crisis saw some “interesting banking policies” change the world. I was in a leadership position at that time, however, I have to admit, I didn’t know what hit me and was equally fortunate to get through it relatively unharmed as a business.

I’ve since been conscious of creating a framework that could help navigate a similar event — Here are my seven key takeaways that have helped me navigate the current 2020 Pandemic.

  1. Invest in leaders — It seems profitable in the short run to hire 6’s and 7’s, but where possible hire the 10’s. Good leaders take control of the teams they have to manage and drive the results needed allowing you the bandwidth to look ahead.
  2. Communication is paramount — Find a mode of communication you are most comfortable with and ensure your teams & leaders know what you see and why you see it that way. We have many examples of leadership on your screen right now. You’ve already made up your mind which one of them you want leading in these times. Your team sees you the same way. Be authentic, don’t undermine anyone's intelligence; The news doesn’t have to be good, it needs to be accurate & consistent.
  3. Clarity — This is a tough one as it can be subjective. Chances are you are going to make unpopular decisions and you will be judged for it regardless as it will affect the lives of your team and their families. Be clear about the reasons for those decisions and ensure it’s not because it is an opportunity to do it. Some of them include but not limited to Salary Cuts, LayOff’s, Projected Shelved and Holding Payments
  4. Rainy Day — Chances are you’ve saved off for a rainy day. You guessed it, it’s pouring! This is where you spend it. Unfortunately, many people tend to hold back resulting in a spiraling situation. You may have a gardener, a cook, a cleaner, or similar. They don’t have the means of saving for a “rainy day”, consider it when you decide to stop all non-essentials.
  5. Stressed? — Chances are you evaluating many “what if” questions on a daily basis. It’s easy enough to keep burning the midnight oil plugging away at work hoping you can work your way out of it. Getting in some form of exercise, yoga, mediation, can shift your focus on getting your breath back and ensure you have plenty of oxygen in your bloodstream to keep all your vitals operating efficiently leading to better decision making.
  6. Opportunity — Change is inevitable, a black swan event only helps catalyze that change. Don’t be married to your perfect plan; Pivot and Adapt may sound like buzz words every industry uses, however, If you are able to look past the pain of a black swan event and I’m sure it’s not easy, you will undoubtedly see opportunity.
  7. Protect your mindset — It’s easy to get swept away by information on social media or the news. Focus on being present and productive, the rest will take care of itself. Use your years of experience to fuel your version 2.0



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