Do you remember where you were when you found out about the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11th? If you were high school-aged and older, you probably recall it like it was yesterday.

What about September 12th? September 14th? Can you think back to those days as clearly, or, like most of us, is that time a bit more fuzzy?

We have evolved to recall things that are prominent or striking. Known as salience bias, we’re hard-wired to revisit emotional events and quickly bring them to mind, even when we’d rather not.

We’re in the midst of one of the most salient times we will ever experience. Yes, the monotony of working from home and “Tiger King” binge-watching is seamlessly blending together. Most of what we’re experiencing will soon be a blur. But, in the middle of all of the sameness, your impact on others – that will not go away.

Your actions today will be your leadership brand forever. They are salient. There are no do-overs.

Here’s the coaching I’ve given to leaders around the country. It’s a three-legged stool – and you need all three to make it work. 

  1. Strength: Strength in this context is about having enough presence and energy to help yourself and others through this challenge. You need to paint a vision for a path forward without platitudes or reckless defiance. Your actions now will reveal the strength of your character.
  2. Empathy: No one is operating at the peak of their performance. Different people, and behavioral styles, handle pressure and conflict differently. Your ability to keep these differences in mind, while having the emotional intelligence and patience to excuse others’ missteps, will determine your effectiveness.
  3. Vulnerability: How do you feel? Choose whichever word is most comfortable to you. Fearful, scared, anxious, unnerved – whatever you think best describes your state of mind. HBR has asserted that the discomfort you’re feeling might be grief. Whatever it is, holding it back from your team will make you look cold, disconnected, fake, and uncaring. That’s the last kind of leader anyone needs right now.

Sure, we will all make mistakes as we attempt to navigate this once-in-a-century crisis. If you err on the side of high-character strength, emotionally-informed empathy, and honest vulnerability, you will build loyalty that lasts. If not, your team will look for the first opportunity to leave you.

Act as if your leadership brand depends on it, now and forever.