What the pandemic taught us about co-creative leadership

Discover the four main lessons we learned in the post-pandemic workplace. It is about more than just allowing your team to work from home!

The Surdek Team
May 29, 2023
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Humans are incredibly adaptable. The proof is in the pudding: as dramatic as the COVID-19 pandemic was globally, the business world adjusted in many ways. The worst of the pandemic is hopefully behind us at this point, and we can reflect on how to learn from those experiences.

You have probably mastered Zoom calls and dealt with the joys and pitfalls of working from home with your pets, partner and/or children. There is a lot that you can learn from it as a leader too. It can teach you a lot about what can make co-creative leadership a successful way of leading your team.

In this article, we want to take a moment and reflect on our takeaways from that trying time. Keep on reading to discover the 4 lessons you can learn and that you can apply on a daily basis to your co-creative leadership.

Lesson #1: Establish trust and accountability

Without people in the office all the time, how do you keep an eye on them? It is impossible to keep tabs on everyone when they are not in your line of sight. What you may have realized by now is that it is not really useful to do so anyway.

Instead, establish a climate of trust and accountability inside your organization. Trust is about the ability for people to be open with others on the team. Do you create a space where they are comfortable asking for help or talking about things that are not going well?

As for accountability, it can be helpful to see it as a way to support your team. Instead of the blame game, turn it into a shared commitment for your team members to support each other. As a leader, what can you do to ensure they are empowered and productive? Check in regularly with them to make sure they have all that they need to succeed.

Lesson #2: Keep open lines of communication

Even if you no longer get face time with your people, make sure your virtual door is always open to them. A part of this is also learning to consider your team's needs and ideas. In meetings, do you let others bring their ideas? Do you use moments of silence to encourage your team to speak their minds?

You need to learn to listen to what is happening within your team in a more subtle way. Do you know how to read a room, even if it is a virtual room? Over Zoom or any other tool you may be using, make sure everyone gets a chance to speak and recognize nonverbal cues.

If you notice a topic is broached but things are left unsaid, encourage your team to step into that conversation. Engage in those important discussions and ask questions about the elephant in the room, even if they can be perceived as difficult conversations.

Lesson #3: Use and develop your emotional intelligence

We talk a lot about how important soft skills are for leaders, and the pandemic put this truth under a magnifying glass. Especially when your team is undergoing a crisis, showing empathy toward their emotions goes a long way. It can be as simple as asking someone how they are feeling coming into a meeting.

It can also be having a one-on-one conversation with those around you. Truly get interested in their life outside of work. How is their family life going? What are their hobbies?

It is also about allowing yourself to be vulnerable in front of your team. What we mean is that you do not have to be the strong, directive leader who knows all the answers all the time. It is OK to have doubts, to say "I don't know" or to ask for advice on the next steps you should take.

Lesson #4: Give yourself some grace

As a leader, it is key to support not only the people you are leading, but also to support yourself. We heard a lot about self-care during the pandemic. So, cut yourself some slack. Allow yourself to not be perfect. Know your personal boundaries and enforce them.

Supporting yourself also includes creating space in your life for yourself to grow as a leader. The great thing about investing in your personal development is that it sets an example for your team of what truly empowered co-creative leadership is.

At some point in your journey, you may realize that while you love supporting others, you need some outside help to support you. This is where it may be helpful to find a coach to guide you.


In the past few years, you may have experienced your team working from home continually for the first time. You may also have decided to shift toward remote work in a more permanent way.

Create a climate of trust and accountability within your organization to maintain your team's engagement and productivity. Check in regularly with your people and make it known that your door is always open to them, whether virtual or physical.

If you have been following the blog for a while, you have heard about the fourth skill of co-creative leadership, dancing with the system around you. Your team is a system. Your organization is another system. Even if everyone is working remotely, or going to the office only a few days a week, you need to notice the group dynamics. Developing your soft skills and your empathy toward your team will also go a long way.

Finally, remember to take care of yourself and to carve out time for yourself throughout your leadership journey. It is the only way you can make progress toward the leader you want to become!

What are the lessons you learned during the pandemic? How will you use them to develop your leadership?