The Alchemy of Leadership in COVID-19

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Alchemy is the process of taking something ordinary and converting it into the extraordinary. In its esoteric form, it was the process whereby people sought to turn base metals into gold.

We often don’t think of it, but leadership is an alchemical process.  We are not born leaders, we become leaders as we take three components and allow ourselves to be transformed into effective leaders. What are these three components?

There is our training. The degrees we hold, the training courses we attend. This training is important because it allows our mind to think beyond ourselves for the good of the team and the organisation we are leading. Our training provides a framework for us to apply knowledge. It provides fresh insights into how challenges can be reframed and resolved or lived with.

The second component is our experience. The experiences we have in workplaces, experiences of being accepted or rejected. Learning who to trust and who is untrustworthy. All the experiences we go through are important in transforming us into leaders. It is not just the experience itself. Experiences need to be reflected on, considered, “chewed over”. This takes time. I have learnt, as a leader that sometimes experiences generate such strong emotions, you need to wait. You need to wait till the emotions subside, then as you consider, reflect, “chew over” the most important learnings can be seen. Situations, experiences that were difficult and challenging provide the most important learnings as we move on.

The third component is ourselves and we are the most important part of the leadership alchemical process. We can have all the knowledge; we can have degrees and doctorates and have done courses on leadership. We can have experienced countless leadership situations and yet have learnt nothing because we ignore who we are. We lead out of our shadow, those parts of ourselves that get trigged and become angry or always wanting to be seen and heard. We lead, unaware of our impact on others because we do not know ourselves or have lost touch with the values, we once held important in leadership.

Time is the essence of the alchemical process. I have spoken of the time we need to reflect on our experiences. We also need time, as leaders to return to ourselves. Time to reflect on our values, time to remind ourselves of why we are leaders in the first place. 

COVID-19 has disrupted our usual patterns and habits and in doing so, it gives us a choice. We can see this disruption as a nuisance, we can become even more frenetic as we lose ourselves in countless zoom meetings, emails and phone calls. Convincing ourselves, our business is making us effective, when it just may be making us neurotic. Or, we can use this time in an alchemical way that is often not afforded to us in the normal routines of live to get to know ourselves again.

We can use this time to reflect on our values as men and women, as leaders, to reflect on what drives us. We can use this time to reconnect with ourselves in a way that renews us, whether it is reading, meditating, walking, journaling, listening to music, whatever it is.

We can use this time in an alchemical way, so that as we walk the path out of COVID-19 we will be leaders who lead with soul and heart post COVID-19.

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