If I could offer one piece of advice to millennial professionals in the finance industry who have never been through a bear market, much less an unfolding societal crisis like that caused by the COVID-19 virus, it would be this: Pay attention.

Extreme times reveal core values. Crises reveal character. This may be one of the single most important moments you will ever experience in your development as future leaders of our industry. Decades from now you will talk about this with your children and grandchildren, with the employees who will then be reporting to you, with the companies and businesses you will be running. The pandemic of 2020 will be one of the things that formed you as a professional and a person. 

Now is a time for heightened mindfulness. Pay attention to what you are feeling and how you’re reacting to situations. At work. At home. In the communities, you are a part of. What matters most to you amid the profound unfamiliarity and uncertainty and anxiety we are living with on a daily basis?

Watch the people you admire and respect. How are they behaving? My bet is that those rising to this occasion are radiating an outward-focused commitment to attending to and serving others, while at the same time, they seem centered and grounded. 

This is the secret to leading effectively in a crisis. You need to find the solid ground on which you can stand – stable, centered, strong. But that solid, stable ground has to be the conviction that your purpose, at times like these, isn’t to worry about yourself – it is to help others. To help real people in the real world with real problems. 

As I wrote in the middle of the financial crisis of 2008 – 2009, “The best way to make it through a crisis is to stop focusing on your own problems and start helping others with theirs.”

Learn that. Experience that. Live that. And you will have the most important thing you need to lead our industry through peak and valley cycles and crises in years to come. 

 

John Taft is the Vice Chairman of Baird. John is a current member of the Board of Advisors of Scholars of Finance, the former CEO of RBC Wealth Management, has served on the board of several Non-Profit Organizations, and is deeply committed to the prosperity of our communities. This blog post originally appeared on financeforthegreatergood.com.

John Taft

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