Photographs by Martha Williams
Leadership in the time of covid
Very frequently, my mind goes back to one of the first headlines I saw tweeted at the beginning of the pandemic that said, in short, the quality of one’s leadership would be on full display during this crisis. Already feeling the pangs of an uncertainty the magnitude of which most of us had never experienced, somehow, I felt comforted by the notion that leading well during the pandemic was on someone else’s mind. I was encouraged that thought leaders were offering expertise on how to dig deeper as well as truly thinking top to bottom about organizations across industries and spheres.
My circle of friends and colleagues compared notes almost daily about the changes we were seeing and how we were faring, not just as individuals but as teams within our various workforce segments. I have read a lot about companies pivoting to survive, but the reality is that for businesses to keep going through the pandemic, the people behind brands had to keep going. People were able to keep performing, innovating, and succeeding because of effective leadership.
Pre-pandemic, from the solace of normalcy, I thought of successful leadership in big concepts like ambition and perseverance. Don’t get me wrong—those themes are still extremely useful to realizing success as a leader. But, what I’ve found since early 2020 is that defining leadership is in the nuances; and that is what I discovered among the Atlantans featured in this year’s Atlanta 500 issue.
What makes this list of corporate, non-profit, civic, entrepreneurial, religious, and creative leaders the cream of the crop is more than their titles or stations at the top of their organizations. It’s the thoughtful way that they have gone about considering their work and the work of their companies—people first. Finding the value in people from their employees to the customers they serve and the communities they call home is what undergirds the organizations they head.
It is obvious that they have something in common in that they understand nobody rises to the top by themselves.
— Katrice L. Mines, Guest Editor