Leadership lessons from 2020

by Victor G. Dodig – President and Chief Executive Officer, CIBC

As published on LinkedIn

For leaders at every level across all industries, this was a demanding year. Ensuring the well-being of your team while meeting the needs of stakeholders in a crisis created pressures, both personal and professional.

In difficult times, leadership can be a difference maker, and there were many lessons from the year gone by that can serve us well as we look ahead to a stronger 2021. I wanted to share a few reflections on the leadership lessons we can all apply going forward to strengthen our individual teams and support our collective economic growth:

  1. Build a strong culture — A purpose-led culture proved vital for our team in 2020. You can’t start building culture when a crisis hits – it’s an intangible asset that you make ongoing investments in for the long term, and then draw from when times are tough. Our team members constantly had to make difficult, time-sensitive decisions to respond to a fluid situation. Having a clear purpose and client-focused mindset to guide these choices was key to responding with urgency. In short, the right culture allows you to move faster in a crisis, and empowers people to make decisions with confidence because they have a north star to steer their actions.
  2. Invest for the future — The pandemic proved the importance of flexibility. As an example, the investments we made in technology in recent years came to fruition when we moved a significant portion of our team to remote work almost overnight at the onset of the pandemic. Similarly, we were able to implement financial relief programs in days instead of months by leaning on a digital-first approach to delivering support for clients. These weren’t the intended outcome of these investments, but the foundation was in place to give our team greater connectivity and the means to move quickly when the external environment changed and our clients needed us most. The ability to pivot quickly is essential to continuity within your team – invest in it.
  3. Foster an engaged team — In a crisis like the one we faced in 2020, the work done by every member of your team can make the difference in your response. This includes frontline team members – delivery drivers, grocery store workers, and in our case, our colleagues in our banking and contact centres, who have been at the heart of providing vital services through the pandemic. It was an inclusive approach and having an engaged team that pulled us through the initial crisis, and that same thinking will see us through to a recovery. Leaders must think holistically and collaborate to drive growth in 2021. Connect with all levels of your team, ensure they have the support they need to be effective, and nurture their well-being.

2020 was a year like no other and I’d like to thank all those who played a role in keeping essential services working – in particular healthcare workers – for their incredible service.

­Looking to 2021, with many families and businesses hard hit by the pandemic, the path to recovery isn’t going to be easy. Leading with purpose and commitment will allow us to enter the year focused on protecting what matters, working toward an inclusive economic recovery and building on the resilience we’ve shown to support growth and prosperity.

Wishing you all the best in the new year.

Victor