Cultivate 12 core attributes for surviving the Covid-19 Crisis

As the coronavirus pandemic worsens, engulfing Europe, America, and India in particular, other places like Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Taiwan seem to have gotten a handle on the cases that first spread outward from China. Yet, as the global death toll passes 320,000, the prospect of a second wave in the fall is almost certain, and more and more countries will impose social distancing and national lockdown.

Our baseline projection is that the epidemic will last until the end of next year, with the economic depression lasting longer. We are all trying to cope with the new normal and the black swans potentially to come.

We are facing the biggest global challenge since World War II. A popular sentiment that has emerged is that even though we are all facing the same storm, we are certainly not in the same boat. Our kindness and faith are being tested, and we should look beyond self-interest to do what is right and good.

Angst over being home-bound is nothing compared to the real anxieties, trauma, and bereavement that surrounds us. A recent Gallup poll reveals that Americans’ life satisfaction has eroded rapidly throughout this period, reaching historic lows far surpassing even that of November 2008 during the Great Recession.

What skills should business leaders inculcate during this moment of crisis, as the rules and expectations of our world are reshuffled? This article summarizes the 10 most important skills to cultivate during this crisis.


Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. The current circumstances is thus a clarion call for flexibility—to be able to restructure our thoughts, beliefs, and habits at a moment’s notice, in response to the changing world around us.

The key to flexibility is a combination of critical thinking and resilient optimism.

Critical thinking drives us to interrogate our assumptions and conclusions, allowing us to explore new ideas and embrace fresh perspectives.

Resilient optimism allows us to make full use of critical thought. Positive psychologist Martin Seligman has argued that optimism is the key characteristic required to build resilience – that is, it is an optimistic attitude that allows us to see setbacks as temporary and mutable. Resilient optimism is thus the central attitude that allows us to adopt a flexible stance and approach new problems with an open mind.

Can’t break through that wall? Then build a door, open a window, buy a ladder, or rent a crane with a drop hammer – but don’t stop trying.

2. A Solution-Oriented Attitude

The skilful leader sees problems as the predecessor to opportunities. The ability to find creative solutions thus enables us to not only overcome problems, but to even attain great success.

The first step in creative problem solving requires us to move from articulating problems to framing relevant questions. This moves us from being problem-oriented to solution-oriented. We move from standing in one spot to actively considering next steps. For instance, rather than stating the problem as “Customers are complaining about the long waiting time,” ask: “How can we reduce the waiting time?” This question moves us beyond  the initial moment and orients us towards future solutions.

The next step is to consider multiple solutions. Rather than getting stuck on one path, the open-minded leader visualizes multiple roads, and is able to detach herself from the mythical correct answer, opening the business up to creative trajectories ahead.

By framing insightful questions and considering multiple solutions, the solution-oriented leader is able to propel the business forward in the face of adversity.

3. Intention

For a leader to succeed, she needs to motivate her team to be internally motivated too. What does this mean?

In any company, the motivating force might differ from employee to employee. Some employees might just be interested in taking home a salary. This set of employees are externally motivated and require secure benefits to be driven.

Other employees might truly believe in the mission of the organization and put the company first. This set of employees are internally motivated and are more likely to spur the company to new heights, even in times of crisis and uncertainty.

The job of a successful leader is to transform the employees’ sense of external motivation such that they are driven by internal motivation.

When employees find a sense of internal motivation, they will approach their tasks with intention and purpose. Finding ways to make the company’s mission resonate with your employee’s sense of identity is a great way to convert external motivation into an internal fire. Developing intentionality across the team will give the company a strong spirit and drive the company forward.


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Helena Ma brings with her a wealth of experience and a truly cosmopolitan perspective, having lived and worked in Shanghai, China; Gothenburg, Sweden; and London, UK. Her stints in Europe and China has armed Helena with a potent blend of ancient Chinese wisdom and contemporary Western knowledge which she incorporates into business management and client project