Leadership 2.1

From Survival to Revival: 21 Leaders’ Lessons for “Leadership 2.1”

Post by
Thomas Cheng
From Survival to Revival: 21 Leaders’ Lessons for “Leadership 2.1”

From Survival to Revival: 21 Leaders’ Lessons for “Leadership 2.1”

We’re only a few weeks into 2021, and it’s already another “unprecedented” year.

If “Leadership 2.0” in 2020 was all about survival, “Leadership 2.1” in 2021 is all about revival.

At LeadersAtlas, we believe everyone - from the CEO to a new intern - has valuable knowledge and skills to contribute to this revival.

Over the past year, we’ve had the pleasure to work with diverse leaders around the world. We’ve seen that both the challenges and solutions for leadership are the same everywhere, regardless of age, country, or industry. A leader’s job is not to fix every problem but to build a system and culture that brings out the best of their people, in service of the group’s shared vision.

Some of these lessons may not be new for you. But we’ve learned that what is second nature to one person may be an “aha” moment for another. (We’ll expand on some of the lessons in future articles.)

So, in the spirit of gathering around the proverbial campfire and sharing, here are 21 of our leaders’ lessons for “Leadership 2.1”. Here’s to a successful Year of Revival.


Our Experienced Leaders (1-7)

Through our partnerships, LeadersAtlas has learned a lot from seasoned leaders in the private and public sectors. Here’s what they’re thinking about.

1. Find ways to help your team own its destiny

Over 20 years, I’ve seen that the highest performing teams are the ones that think this way. Instead of waiting for some higher force to show them the way forward, they’re able to create it themselves. This is extremely important right now, when there is so much long-term ambiguity.

-Horacio Miranda (U.S.) is the Head of Marketing, North America at HP. He has 20 years of management experience in the technology sector across four countries.

2. Approach equity with a systematic approach

Equity is all about designing your organization in a way where truly everyone can succeed. In my district, we are very structured in how we pursue equity, from our recruitment to data collection/analysis to programming decisions. We also make sure all our stakeholders are rallied behind these goals, especially important during a crisis that exacerbates systemic inequities.

-Gustavo Balderas (U.S.) is the superintendent of Edmonds School District in Edmonds, Washington. He was named the 2020 National Superintendent of the Year by ASSA, the School Superintendents Association.

3. Give people space

Right now, people don’t need more, they need less. Approach your team from a position of empathy - how can you push a team forward while still giving people that space to unwind and de-stress?

-Kevyn Klein (U.S.) is the Head of Global Community at edtech unicorn VIPKid. Her mission is to find and connect the best teachers in the world.

4. Take the time to learn and try out new technologies

Crisis and recovery create a lot of new needs. There may be things you've thought about trying for a while, but now they’re mission critical. Applying new technology can help you quickly create and iterate.

-Kitty Fok (China) is the Managing Director of IDC China. Her expertise includes an in-depth understanding of emerging technologies and digital transformation.

5. Focus on your larger strategy

Spend your time and energy where it matters. It’s easy to get caught up in the tactics of the transition, but leaders should always keep their eye on the bigger picture. Strategy should be “bottom up” as well as “top-down”; give your people a say in determining the team’s direction.

-Mike Belcher (U.S.) is the Director of EdTech Innovation at HP. He has dedicated his career to helping schools leverage technology and innovative instructional strategies.

6. Be innovative in creating leadership opportunities

In Brown Deer, we’ve found that many teachers possess untapped skills and talents to support initiatives beyond the classroom.  We’re always trying to better understand their passions and interests, so we can help them take on greater leadership roles and advance the district’s vision together.

-Monica Kelsey-Brown (U.S.) is the superintendent of Brown Deer School District in Brown Deer, Wisconsin. She is the state’s sole Black female school superintendent.

7. Invest in relationships

Even though we aren't physically next to our colleagues, we can still build great relationships. The key is making time in the agenda to connect on a personal level, and celebrate both big and small wins.

-Pete Kraft (U.S.) manages Operations and Partner Marketing at HP. He is passionate about leading, mentoring, and training top-performing teams and individuals to enhance productivity and hit targets.

Our Changemakers and Community Leaders (8-14)

Leadership is a lifelong endeavor. At LeadersAtlas, we know that startup and community leaders are practicing the fundamentals for lifelong impact. Here’s what they have to say.

8. Be willing to be vulnerable

Showing vulnerability used to be seen as a weakness. But when done well, it can be a powerful tool to build a stronger team. As a leader, if you share your own vulnerabilities and create a space for your people to do the same, you can build a culture of trust and deeper connections.

-Tiffany Yu (U.S.) is an entrepreneur and disability rights advocate. She founded Diversability to increase intersectional disability representation and democratize visibility.

9. View setbacks as feedback

It’s easy for us to look at setbacks with our teams as personal failures. But what if we saw them as feedback? Don’t judge yourself for these bumps in the road, but consider them lessons on what you can change and how to be a better leader.

-Kaitlyn Allen (U.S.) is the Founder, President, and CEO of Global Affairs Associates, a boutique consultancy. Her company helps clients bridge business and sustainability.

10. Manage difficult conversations

As leaders, we need to navigate the tension that comes with stress and uncertainty. Turn polarizing interactions into fulfilling conversations by 1) checking emotional language, 2) asking questions that help your employees reflect on their feelings, and 3) helping people be empathetic to each other.

-Cheyenne Haatrecht (Netherlands) is a police superintendent and team leader in Amsterdam. She plays an active role in creating safe spaces for women.

11. Know yourself, motivate yourself

If you want to motivate others, you first need to motivate yourself. Leaders feel pandemic fatigue as well! I’ve found reflection to be a great tool in understanding my motivations, shaping my mindsets, and keeping track of my growth.

-Deborah Saki (Ghana) is an entrepreneur in Accra. She is the Co-Founder of Oniocha Books, a platform that aims to provide Africans easy and affordable access to books.

12. Use mindfulness to develop resilience

If you want to build a resilient team, it helps to be a resilient leader. Resilience is a muscle that can be strengthened through practice. I like to guide my teams through a process of acknowledging the past, reimagining our perceptions, and affirming a positive vision.

-Shucao Mo (China) is an entrepreneur working at the intersection of art, education, and the public sphere. She is the CEO of Splash Institute, a community health initiative that aims to destigmatize trauma and pleasure in female sexuality.

13. Sell internally

If a team’s morale and motivation are low, the leader should be selling projects internally. Of course, this shouldn’t be done in an inauthentic way. But by identifying people’s motivators and speaking to those, you can increase your team’s buy-in for whatever you’re doing.

-Paul Endelman (U.S.) is an entrepreneur dedicated to building the creative economy in Sacramento, California. He collaborates with local artists, government, and activists to push the boundaries of what is possible.

14. Talk to people to understand their real challenges

During work-from-home, it’s hard for leaders to know what people are struggling with. Take the time to ask them what problems they’re encountering and truly listen.

-Pierce Dargan (Ireland) is the CEO of Equine MediRecord, a platform simplifying compliance to animal welfare and anti-doping regulations. He is a third generation racehorse owner and breeder.

Our Team's Leaders (15-21)

LeadersAtlas is a young startup started by a group of expats who met in Beijing. As a team that lives and breathes leadership, here are our lessons for Leadership 2.1.

15. Be strategic about your people’s attention

In a distributed digital world, it’s important not to talk at people. If you’re going to ask folks to tune in, clearly communicate why it’s important for them specifically and how they can contribute.

-Abe Sorock (U.S.) is our Co-founder and CEO. Prior to LeadersAtlas, he founded a recruiting company that served clients in fast-growing markets across Asia.

16. Take a break

As we approach year two of the pandemic, it can be difficult to get a true sense of where your energy levels are, even if you love your work. Don't wait until you're burned out to give yourself a day off. Take a day, and don't use it to catch up on everything else. Just rest.

-Andrew Shirman (U.S.) is our Co-founder and Principal. Previously, he founded Education In Sight, a nonprofit providing vision tests and eyeglasses to students in rural China.

17. Create space to learn and practice new skills.

It’s especially important now for all of us to pick up new skills. As a leader, tap into existing resources on your team. Create an environment where people can share tips, tricks, and best practices with each other...and then actually implement them!

-Leah House (U.S.) is our COO. Before joining us, she led teams and managed large initiatives at a speakers bureau and an education consulting company.

18. Make work more manageable.

Instead of setting goals for the year or half-year, we operate in six-week ‘seasons’. For an agile startup, this helps the team focus on concrete and accomplishable deliverables. We still think about the long-term, but in a way that’s aspirational and not overwhelming.

-Tania Dias (Portugal) works on our product. Previously, she held leadership roles in education consulting and college admissions.

19. Build an “online first” culture.

Half of our team has never met each other in person and because we cover different countries, it may be years before we’re able to do so. Find ways for people to build trust, get to know each other, go down those rabbit holes together, so they’ll collaborate more effectively with their fellow Zoom squares.

-Tom Linnette (Australia) works on our product. Before LeadersAtlas, he spent time with DiDi and KPMG’s China office.

20. Communicate the big picture.

We make sure everyone we work with - including our freelancers and contractors - knows what we’re trying to do and how their efforts contribute to something larger than themselves.

-William Mock (U.S.) is our strategic adviser. He is the Co-Founder and Head of Education and Content at an early education startup.

21. Remember what matters.

At the end of the day, the most important things are your purpose and your people.

-Thomas Cheng (U.S.) supports client services and business development. He comes from the education and edtech sector, having worked in schools, nonprofits, and large corporates.

What’s your leadership lesson for Leadership 2.1?

What LeadersAtlas stands for?

LeadersAtlas has a mission to charge Asabiyyah, the nuclear force that holds groups together, on behalf of leaders working for noble causes, for your team to share talent, band together, and realize a vision of excellence through peer led forums.

We Believe everyone has superpowers that can improve the performance of their teams and organizations

By celebrating these practices, sharing knowledge and teaching skills, team members bond, come to respect each other's excellence and seek more excellence themselves. It is our mission to help you maximize your team’s potential.