In this story, Susan Jurevics (MBA ‘96), general manager, Audible, shares how ambiguity can help MBA students build resilience. She redefines leadership as a series of small, humble behaviors, rather than a title, and highlights the opportunity MBA students have to be creative problem-solvers.
According to Nate Pettit, associate professor of management & organizations and director of the Leadership Accelerator, “Leaders have the courage to step forward and act when other people will not. This requires a willingness to take some amount of personal risk, and is a big part of what separates leaders from non-leaders.”
Read Susan’s story below.
It is 8:00 pm in Brooklyn, and I am on a video call with a few members of my team. We are meeting in the evening because it is a time that makes sense for those of us with kids. While this can feel disorienting, comfort with discomfort indicates progress.
I have lived through challenging times such as 9/11 and the Great Recession, and ambiguity always feels disorienting, yet growth happens in times like these. While Covid-19 is an unprecedented global pandemic, many lessons I have learned through these prior experiences apply: In chaotic situations, all I can control is my response. I take the best steps I can with the information I have at the time, and pivot as needed. Take the long view. Communicate clearly and often. Humor helps diffuse tension. People genuinely rise to the occasion facing them. Kindness and empathy can win the day. My responsibility as a leader is to provide a calm presence, positivity, thoughtfulness and decisiveness to my team.
These times are an opportunity for MBA students and all of us to demonstrate leadership. The word “leadership” can conjure up grand ideas of authority. However, people with big titles don’t have it all figured out. When it comes to product recalls or social media blunders, the course of action is straightforward. However, in this time of volatility, all territory is uncharted. Leadership is not a title; it is grounded in small, humble behaviors.
As students enter a world after business school that is unknown, they have the opportunity to be creative problem-solvers, and show leadership. It is entirely reasonable to feel fear and apprehension; this is an unprecedented, scary time. However, what we know for sure is that this situation will end, and thinking about the long game now will set them up for success in the future.
My responsibility is also to let people know how resilient they are. I remind my kids of how resilient they have been throughout their lives. At a young age, they moved from the U.S. to the U.K. with little notice and adjusted to new schools and new lives. And now they are back here, readjusting once again. Whether we are exploring new innovations or simply shifting meeting times to establish a new structure, the actions we take now matter, and the ways we adapt to our changing circumstances will impact us for years to come.
More in the Leading Through Crisis series:
- A Story of Empathy with Ken Stolman (MBA '07)
- A Story of Transparency with Pooja Bavishi (MBA '15)
- A Story of Compassion with Gus Giacoman (MBA '11)
About the Leadership Accelerator
Through Stern’s Leadership Accelerator, students gain the behavioral skills and mindset to embrace and drive change in an ever-evolving business world. Through challenging, high-engagement experiences, students repeatedly put themselves outside their comfort zone—to take risks and fail and to learn from these experiences through skillful reflection.