Malcolm Gladwell – Leadership Lessons from the Pandemic

Amid the tragedy brought on by the pandemic, there are valuable lessons that advisors can apply to become more effective leaders, according to Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell was a keynote speaker on the second day of the Schwab IMPACT conference, which was held virtually on October 19-20. Gladwell is the author of seven books, notably The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000) and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and Outliers: The Story of Success (2008).

His co-panelist was Adam Grant, a science author and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania specializing in organizational psychology.

The starting point for their conversation was the statement to “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Rahm Emanuel, who was chief of staff during the Obama administration, popularized that saying, but its origin likely predates his usage.

Most of the time, according to Gladwell, it’s hard to get people to change behaviors, except in a crisis. Grant agreed with that premise and defined a crisis as a threat to your life or livelihood. That was true of COVID.

For example, restaurants have asked for outdoor seating for many years, Gladwell said, and it happened overnight with COVID. Unfortunately, though, that seating is about to disappear as the crisis eases. The crisis was an incentive to rethink virtually every aspect of how businesses operate, including how and where we work, and we should be thoughtful before returning to pre-pandemic practices.