You can’t lead people in a one-size-fits-all way anymore—particularly in the remote environment. And so, as a leader, I need to understand every individual on my team—especially my direct reports.

What do my direct reports need, and how do I meet them where they’re at? Do I know enough about them to understand what they need? Have I taken the time to have meaningful one-on-one discussions so that I can genuinely connect with them in a way that will make them feel like I care about them and want to get the most out of them that I possibly can? I’ve got to meet everybody where they’re at in terms of personal needs.

Before covid, in terms of what was going on in the organization, we at Solutions 21 would encourage leaders to do the following:

  1. Delegate, delegate, delegate power.
  2. Don’t micromanage.
  3. Don’t get too deep in weeds.

After March 2020, everyone entered this environment where we were experiencing a pandemic for the first time. Many of the rules we’d previously recommend ended up having to go out the window. For the first time, we saw a pandemic, and people had to deal with things that they’d never seen before. Although like everyone else, I’ve never worked through a pandemic before, this new normal took me back to my time in the military.

In my training, we were always trying to figure out where you needed to be on the battlefield at any given time. When I was in the military, where you needed to be was where the most significant risk or tension was happening on the battlefield. I needed to be in that tension-filled spot as a leader so that I could help mitigate that risk or that tension. By helping to mitigate, my leaders who reported to me could focus on the task at hand. To be the most impactful leader, I had to go where the friction was.

For business leaders dealing with covid for the first time, their previous approaches weren’t working anymore. Outside of the military, leaders have been taught to delegate, empower, and avoid micromanaging, and yet they were experiencing something that caused the rules to change. Instead, business leaders need to go where the tension was. They need to get into the weeds with their people, get involved, and figure out:

  • Where is the most tension?
  • What’s difficult for my team?
  • Why are my clients frustrated with us?
  • And work to figure out everything that’s happening that’s causing friction.

During COVID, we recommended company’s leaders to go to the highest points of friction in their organizations and live there with their teams. If their teams didn’t know what to do in the situation, neither did the leaders nor their clients. Although adapting to covid is not as severe as it was in those first pivotal months, going to the point of friction is undoubtedly something you need to think about as a 21st-century leader.


Adapted from Rob Salome’s recent episode on Creative Curiosity, a podcast by Warehaus. To check out Rob’s full episode with host Mike Falvey, you can listen on Anchor, Spotify, or Google Podcasts.