Economies globally are scrambling to cope with the changes wrought by the pandemic. Millions have been laid off, unemployment is rampant and so is the Covid 19 virus. To add to the woes, it now seems it is cyclical and people who recovered earlier are being diagnosed with the virus – there are 2nd rounds of waves being reported globally. Change and uncertainty are the only constants in a world that is very different from what it was 6 months ago. Against this backdrop, how must CEOs cope? Added to the stress of the Pandemic and WFH, business continuity etc…are the worries of caring for the family, employees, and personal well-being. Not exactly the time to rethink one’s fundamentals when such a lot is at stake, right? Wrong.

This, precisely, is the time to reassess, re-examine and unlearn past lessons if they do not serve to resolve the current crisis. As leaders, CEOs may need to look at newer ways of leading teams, driving the organisation to achieve its goals, coordinating teams better for building more efficiency, amongst other things. This calls for learning more life skills than professional skills. These skills can enable a transformation in how a person acts, thinks and thus impacts outcomes. Amongst the more humble, unassuming but profound sources of inspiration, I have often thought of, is the humble Potter. Let’s see what CEOs can learn from the humble Potter:

Have a Clear idea of what you want:

The CEO must have a clear vision and a goal. Otherwise he will not be able to drive his teams properly or initiate the strategy to achieve that goal. To understand this, let us look at the simple example of the Potter. The Potter starts his process by having a clear idea of what he wants to create. Without this he will not be able to make anything – nor will he know the type of clay he needs, how much he needs, how long he will need to turn the wheel or when to keep the kiln on. On the other hand, if he knows he needs a specific product and of a particular design, he will prepare the clay accordingly, moisten it, mould it over the wheel and prepare it. Accordingly if the CEO has a clear idea and know if the business idea is worth pursuing, s/he will need to draw up a strategy, break it down into tasks and allot it amongst the team. Clarity of vision and objectives is most important.

Work hard towards your Goal:

Every CEO will have gone through a lot of hard work already – and will reaffirm – nothing is ever easy, it comes from sheer hard work. Amidst all the uncertainties, this needs a reaffirmation: No goal is ever achieved easily – it takes a lot of hard work, applied knowledge, skills and repeated unceasing efforts. Those who have seen a Potter at work will confirm this – he does not just work hard – he toils. Hard. Every time he creates something, he selects the proper raw material, based on what he wants to make. Preparing, moistening, moulding the clay, shaping it over the Potter’s wheel, spinning the wheel, shaping the clay with utmost skill, and refining it in the Kiln for the final outcome. The Potter works hard throughout the day – this is something every CEO must continue to remember and emulate.

Get involved at every stage of the Process:

For CEOs, there’s no letting up – they need to be there at the beginning of the journey, during the journey and at the finish. At no stage can they let the momentum flag, or slow down or cease. They alone have the full overview, the in depth picture of what is going on, what jigsaw piece will fit where – and how the target is going to be achieved. Much like a Potter. The Potter, too, has to be fully involved – right from when he decides what he wants to create. Then starting with the selection of the clay to prepare it, shaping it, being at the wheel and finally overseeing it at the kiln, he is fully involved at every stage of the process. This is a trait that CEOs should strive for, because they will be looked up to for decisions, domain information and knowledge at any stage of the journey.

Pressure & Heat cause Change, help you evolve: 

In the journey towards the goal, there will of course be obstacles and upsets. But CEOs will need to endure these and lead the team towards the objective. There will be both internal pressures and performance pressures – stress will rear its head. As the leader, CEOs will have to endure and get on with it. At the end of it, they will emerge more accomplished, more complete, more able. The Potter sees this happen every single day. He selects his raw material, prepares it, moulds it, twists it and shapes it on his spinning wheel. Then he puts it in the heat of the Kiln. After enduring all this, the clay is transformed into a functional, beautiful product. Thus the CEO will need to endure, sustain and still deliver. There are no excuses, no reasons that can be given to anyone – only by outcome will he be judged. And there is certainly no shame in trying, failing and trying again till you succeed. Potters, too, persist and recreate till they are content with the output.

Swapan Dholakia is a senior Communications and Trade Advocacy professional. His current interest areas are trade diplomacy and leveraging Communications to impact society & audiences at large.