Communication and courage: The top 5 corporate leadership lessons from 2020

Article by Katherine Thompson at Fortune

Image by Artem Zhukov on Unsplash


This time last year, I was optimistic about starting 2020, excited to enter both a new year and a new decade. Like other corporate leaders, I finalized visions and planned to move along traditional pathways of success. But for all of us, those pathways would quickly change into a road that wound through challenging, uncertain terrain.

Even as the world ramped up to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, corporate leaders would find other insurmountable challenges waiting in the wings—such as an economic downturn, racial unrest, and one of the most important elections of our time.

Still, as I look back on 2020, I see a year of great reflection, awakening, and resiliency. Here are the top five corporate leadership lessons I learned in 2020.

Most leaders strive to create transparent work environments that offer open communication and authentic engagement between employees and management. The trials of 2020 quickly put this commitment to the test. Whether coping with COVID’s economic impacts or with protests about racial injustice, leaders had to find ways to quickly communicate and genuinely engage with employees. Building transparency and connections proved critical to the pulse and survival of organizations and their people. As leaders found themselves addressing financial impacts with layoffs, or managing virtual teams of overworked and stressed employees, they were forced to tap their emotional intelligence (EI) by connecting more deeply on a human level. We observed corporate leaders putting “business as usual” messaging aside and stepping up by having honest and tough conversations and listening sessions on topics like race, politics, and the importance of voting, child care, mental health, and employee financial burdens.