Chris Nel

Leadership ‘Armour’ ?

Over the last 12 months Quest leadership have been running a free helpline for leaders. Chris Nel has posted several blogs on lessons learned on the helpline. In this final reflection before the helpline closes, Chris focusses on his own key piece of leadership learning over the last 12 months.


“Dear Chris …I want to postpone our first session and my LPI until the autumn. I have not really had the chance to do much leadership recently, due to COVID …”

I received this email from a new coaching client last week. It left me a little stunned. Unable to think of anything skilful to write, I decided to pick up the phone and talk it through with her.

There was of course a really lucid explanation as to why this very intelligent, affable company director had felt her leadership had been hindered by Zoom meetings, pandemic restrictions, family needs and urgent business situations. This was a crisis, right? Well …

The more we dug into this and the more honest we got with each other, the more we both discovered feelings of frustration and self-reproach. We felt we had both to some extent let our teams, our colleagues, and our families down … just when they needed us most. This got us talking about the extent to which the uncertainty, fear, anxiety, dismay and all the other negative feelings we may have felt over the last 12 pandemic filled months, could erode away at our ability to lead.

It has of course been a really tough time. My family, my business colleagues, my clients and my friends would have all have seen me wrestling with the challenge. So, this post is definitely not a rebuke from the moral high ground, but an attempt to clarify what I have (re)learned: That leadership is not about being a super-hero or displaying extraordinary super-powers when everyone else is struggling. Leadership is not about being super-human. It is about being a super human being … An authentic, hopeful, positive, curious, courageous, kind human being.

As we finally got round to describing to each other when we had actually managed to do a better job of leading, it revealed something I think is really worth sharing as my key piece of COVID learning  … Providing the service of leadership, focussing on the needs of others, displacing your needs with theirs  was what had protected our ability to be a super human being … and a leader.