Dori Eppstein: Leadership in challenging times

Businessman Challenge Concept For Success Picture Id1043738948By Dori Eppstein /

Great leadership on any given day is an art form that has been cultivated over time with significant effort and dedication to the craft.

You’ve worked hard to be successful in your business and have learned through experience and training what it takes to be a strong leader.

And then COVID-19 entered into the picture.

It’s a call to action, a call to bring out your best leadership qualities.

What does it take to lead in times of challenge? What we need now, more than ever, are what the writer David Foster Wallace called “real leaders” — people who “help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better, harder things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.”

How do you begin to accomplish this lofty goal? Start by providing honesty — a clear accounting of the challenges your business, community, and team faces — and credible hope that collectively you and your people have the resources needed to meet the threats you face each day: determination, solidarity, strength, shared purpose, humanity, kindness, and resilience. It is important to acknowledge people’s fears, then encourage action.

Take a moment to: Recognize that most of your employees are anxious about their health, their finances, and, in many cases, their jobs. Let them know that you understand how scary things feel, but that you can work together to weather this storm.

Give people a role and purpose. Real leaders charge individuals to act in service of the broader community. They give people jobs to do and they give direction. In the current crisis, leaders must give their followers direction and remind them why their work matters. Remind them that the work they do is essential for so many reasons. Emphasize the role each team member plays in keeping things moving in the business.

When in doubt about what you or your team can do during this pandemic, prioritize helping others — even in the smallest ways. There is trans-formative power in giving.

“When in the midst of [outer] turmoil and calamity you seek the inner strength that helps you not only to endure but to overcome, do not look for what you can get, look rather for what you have been given, and for what you can give.” – Peter Gomes.

When we help others, even in the smallest ways, our fears ebb and our focus sharpens. Tend to energy and emotion, yours and theirs. Crisis takes a toll on all of us. Especially when it’s ongoing it is exhausting and can lead to burnout. Keep your finger on the pulse of your people’s energy and emotions and respond as needed. When tending to energy and emotion, you must begin with yourself.

If you are flailing, your business will suffer. In these trying times especially, it is critical that you take good care of yourself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Know when you are capable of being focused and productive, and when you need a break.

In case you’re not sure what self-care looks like: Eat well, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, spend time outdoors (six feet away from strangers), connect in person with your partner, kids, or animals and virtually with friends and extended family, plan for at least two device-free periods per day (of a minimum of 30 minutes each), and rely on other practices that help you get grounded.

Model the behavior you want to see. This means using your body language, words, and actions to signal we are moving forward with conviction and courage. It means regularly taking the (figurative) temperature of your team — How are they doing? How are they feeling? What do they need? — so that they begin to do the same for each other.

Indicate that you are taking the time to rest and recharge and encourage your employees to do the same. Talk a walk even if it’s just around the block. Call your mom and the other people in your life who believe in you. Connect with the people you care about, even if it’s from a distance. Another powerful re-charger is gratitude. When you cultivate a culture of gratitude, you are indirectly cultivating a positive culture that can easily and regularly boost morale. Ask your people to list three things each day for which they feel grateful. You can have them write it down or do it at the beginning or end of day group meeting.

In case you are wondering what to communicate right now… “You are stronger than you know. You can do this.” You will be remembered for how you managed yourself and lead others through this crisis.

How will you, your team, your business, your community connect, persevere, and progress?

How will we emerge from this experience collectively stronger?

When you ask your team these questions, it bring them together to take a proactive stance on how to work through the current crisis and prepares them to do better with the next one. Because there’s always a next one.

Be the type of leader you would love to work for yourself. You have the power to create a great working environment through your words and actions.

What do you want to be remembered for by your team?

Dori120x77Dori Eppstein is the founder and president of Successful Women in Automotive. In addition, she is the general manager of Sales & Marketing for She grew up in Southern California and started off in the auto repair industry handling the marketing for her brother’s first shop. She learned more about the business challenges auto repair shop owners face through the marketing work she did as well as through all of the reviews she handled for shop owners around the country. Her extensive leadership experience over the decades and her own entrepreneurial endeavors combined with her knowledge of the auto repair industry to make a perfect marriage to begin coaching and consulting in this industry. MORE