8 Leadership lessons to lead through crisis, from Carla Harris

Carla Harris, the woman on Wall Street, shares wisdom from her experiences to help leaders lead successfully and effectively in these turbulent times.

The post-pandemic chaos and confusion has put leaders on a tight spot, and everyone is feeling the pressure. In such a delicate and decisive moment, guidance from a proven leader and author like Carla Harris, the Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley can help put things in perspective.

As explained by Harris at The Economic Times Global Business Summit, in today’s environment, leaders must be intentional about everything they do. By being intentional around the following eight themes or as Harris calls them, her hard earned and hard learned leadership pearls, you can emerge as a powerful, impactful and influential leader.


You must acknowledge that your authenticity is your distinct competitive advantage and should never be submerged. You have been chosen to sit in this leadership seat because of your unique qualities. And when you bring your authentic self into that seat, you motivate and inspire others to bring their authentic selves to that environment. And in an environment where we can really be ourselves, we will always outperform. It is particularly important in this environment because people are craving stability and certainty, and if you are authentic and your team sees you as authentic, then they will follow you because they trust you.

Building Trust

In the present time, you will have to venture into unknown territories in order to drive innovation. You cannot do it alone and will need to rely on someone else’s intellect, experience and contacts to successfully prosecute any endeavor. That means you must invest time in your team in order to build the trust, and to build trust all you have to do, is simply deliver over and over again.

Creating Clarity

A leader’s job is to create clarity even if they cannot see clearly. Even if you cannot define clarity for the long term, you can define it for a short period of time – as a powerful, impactful, influential leader, it is your job to define what success looks like and when your team is clear about that, people feel motivated to outperform that which has already been defined.

Creating New Leaders

Once you reach the leadership seat, the way to amplify your contribution in your organization is to create other leaders. We should all be reimagining what we do every single day and the easiest way to expand your personal informatory is to empower other people to be able to do the same thing.

Building Diversity

You must be mindful of creating a diverse team – it doesn’t just happen. If you do not have diverse thinking at your decision-making table, you will have a gap in your go to market strategy. To be innovative, you need a lot of ideas, and ideas come from perspectives and perspectives are created by experiences and to have access to different experiences you need a lot of people. So, you better start with a lot of different people in the room to get to that one innovative idea that will allow you to obtain and retain a leadership position.

Drive Innovation

Innovation is the dominant competitive parameter across all industries right now. That means as a leader, you must teach your team to exercise their innovation muscle. And to do that you must teach them to overcome the fear of failure. If people are afraid of failing, they will never reach far enough in order to be truly innovate. So, as a leader you must be careful about how you respond when somebody takes a risk and it doesn’t work out. You must appreciate the person because he took a risk and not harp upon the failure.

Be Inclusive

To be an inclusive leader you should solicit other people’s voices. You must connect with your team at a personal level and ask for their individual viewpoints in team meetings by inviting them into the conversation by their names. This makes them feel “seen” and “heard” and everyone values that. When you value what someone is saying, you generate immediate currency in that conversation. Currency that you can now reinvest back in that relationship. But most importantly, the intended consequence of this exercise is to put everybody’s fingerprints in the blueprint, making each team member genuinely invested in the success or failure of that endeavor.

Exercise Your Voice

Remember, your team already knows that it’s a tough environment they know that the outlook is uncertain, and they know that some jobs would be lost forever on the other side of the pandemic. But they are looking at you to give voice to the fact. You must be willing to voice all facts, no matter how uncomfortable.

And finally, you must be courageous enough to practice each of these facets of leadership, because it takes real courage to be authentic, to usher clarity, to create other leaders and to drive innovation. To be a powerful, impactful and influential leader you must both expect and strategize to win.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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