Turning crisis into opportunity – part 2



The Leadership Challenge

DR. ICHAK ADIZES gave the keynote address at the IEDC Annual Presidents’ Forum at the Bled School of Management, Slovenia, on October 9, 2020. He shared insights with the foremost global management thinkers of today about how to manage change, crisis, and use integration as a tool for survival and continuous improvement. Here we present excerpts from his presentation.

How do you manage your company in a time of crisis, at this time of COVID? That is in the control of the leaders of the company. It is an opportunity for you to reintegrate your company. At other times, you are busy fighting fires. You have to take care of your clients and your market. You have to deal with financial problems. Now, the market out there is sleepy or hibernating. You have all the time in the world to fix everything in your company. This is the time to get your top management together and say, “All right, what are our problems? What should we do to fix the company, so that when COVID is over we are stronger than we were before the crisis?”

Here is an analogy. You want to go play golf. You have been dreaming about this weekend, when you will play an incredible golf game. You get up in the morning and you see wind and rain. It is terrible weather and you cannot go out and play golf. You have two choices. One is to sit and curse the day. The other is to use the free time that you have to fix your house, do the paperwork that you have been ignoring for a long time, or fix the faucet. When the rain is over, you will have a better house than you did before. By the way, I am using this COVID opportunity to fix my body. I am replacing my knee caps, having my eyes operated for cataracts, and having dental work done. By the time the pandemic is over, there is going to be a new Ichak Adizes. What else can I do?

Instead of reintegrating, some companies are doing just the opposite, pushing the disintegration further. Some country leaders are doing that, too. They are making the wrong decisions and the wrong judgment. They are looking at the wrong compass. An example of this is a company that fires 30% of the labor force to “solve” the crisis. It looks good on paper. It is now doing fine financially. What is this analogous to? You get on the scale and see that you are 15 kilos overweight. What is your solution? Cut off one leg. Then you look at the scale and you see that you have achieved a fantastic result. Your weight is optimal. So, you must be very healthy since the numbers look good. That is what some consulting firms advise by the way. They will tell you to cut expenses across the board. But you may not just be cutting fat. You may be cutting muscle. The numbers may look good but the company is agonizing. It is coming out of the COVID crisis weaker than it was before. Your people are scared and upset and the company culture has gone to hell. What did you do?

So, what should you do? If you want to lose weight, lose weight from the whole body, not from just one part. What does that mean? Why not share jobs? Some people can work three days, while other people work the other three days of the week. In that way, we all take a salary cut. All of us. And the president takes the biggest salary cut, while the secretary takes the smallest. So, we all suffer together. Integrate, do not disintegrate. Whenever you have a problem, think about reintegration.


What is absolute integration? What is the highest level of integration that you can imagine? It is called “love.” When you love, there is no time and space. You can love somebody who has already died. You can still be in love. There is no time limitation. There is no space limitation, either. The other person is thousands of miles away but you are still in love.

A child comes home from school. The mother looks at him and asks, “What happened?” The child has not said a word, but the mother feels that something has happened. Another mother calls her son who is five thousand kilometers away. She says, “What is wrong, son?”
“Why, mother, how do you know?”
She says. “I just couldn’t sleep last night. I felt it.”

What is going on? Love. Love knows no boundaries. You are one and the same with the other person. Your pain is my pain. In fact, my pain can be twice as great as yours. And when you are happy, I am twice as happy. Love has a multiplication effect. That is why you get a lot of energy when you love. You are full of energy. Vice versa, when you hate, you lose energy.

Look at young people in love, or people of any age – they can be 80 years old. If they are in love, they are full of sparks and they look young. They are full of energy. And look at people who hate. They look old. They are like a squeezed lemon. Once I gave a lecture to 5,000 medical doctors at the Anti-Aging Academy in Las Vegas. What could I tell them about anti-aging when I am not a medical doctor? They were talking about chemicals, and vitamins, and supplements, and physical exercises, and saunas. My presentation was about love. Do you want to feel young? Never mind what age you are. Just love. Do you love your spouse? Do you love your children? Do you love your house and your car? Do you love your shirt? Do you love your clients, your employees, anything? The more love there is in your life, the longer you will live. Love extends life. It may not extend it chronologically but it does it experientially. You live your life better.

Integrate, do not disintegrate.
Whenever you have a problem,
think about reintegration.

So, what should you do in your company during this COVID pandemic? How about some love? If you fire your people to make the numbers look good, is that loving?

There is a researcher who says that some cancers can be treated with love. Do not reject your cancer. Do not attack it. Just love it. It is part of you. And do you know what? It disappears. Not all of them, but some do. He has proved that it works. This also applies to a country. In a period of crisis and major disintegration, you need major love.

And what is integration? What is love? Why is it so important now? Let us go beyond COVID to understand its importance. Let us look at the history of humankind. Let us start from the very beginning, when we were chimpanzees; the strongest one was the king of the clan. Then, we became nomadic hunters; the strongest hunter was the leader. Then, we settled down and became an agricultural society; the person with the greatest number of sheep and cows was the leader. What is the common denominator? Muscle. Strength. Possession. Colonialism enhanced this striving for more possession. It was an extension of this trend. More was considered better. This is reflected also in people’s diets. When I was young, people who were fat were admired. Women were expected to be bulky. It denoted success.

What is absolute integration?
What is the highest level of integration
that you can imagine? It is called “love.”
When you love, there is no time and space.

Then came the Industrial Revolution. And what has come into play? Brain. That is what is important today. You have to use your brain much more than before. You have to plan, organize, and systematize. And what happened after the industrial society? Today, we live in a post-industrial society. It is an information society where brains are the most important asset. Muscles have lost their importance.

The largest taxi company in the world does not own a single taxi. It has no muscle. What does it own? Computers. Information. What is that company called? Uber. The largest hotel chain in the world does not own a single hotel. What does it have? Computers and information. What is it called? Airbnb. What are Facebook, Google, and Amazon doing? Accumulating information. They are enhancing their brains, not their muscles.

What is a symbol of love? The heart.
A diamond. Why a diamond?
Because it is the most integrated substance there is.
And love is integration.
So, what company is going
to be successful in the future,
beyond data management?
The one that has integration as a lifestyle.

But this is also on its way out. Artificial intelligence is replacing it. They are going to replace our brains. There are rumors that at some point they will put a chip in your brain and you will not need to talk anymore. There is going to be chip-to-chip communication. You connect your chip to the cloud and you access all the information up there. There is this thing in the sky telling you what to do. It has already started by the way. In the war between Lebanon and Israel, one of the problems was that the generals were not at the firing line. They were using computers to decide what to do. They put their data in the computer and it told them which alternative was best. Oops.

So, what will the future look like? What is the future? The heart. Integration.

What is a symbol of love? The heart. A diamond. Why a diamond? Because it is the most integrated substance there is. And love is integration.

So, what company is going to be successful in the future, beyond data management? The one that has integration as a lifestyle.

By the way, look at my fingers. The pointing one denotes masculine energy. You wave it to issue commands and control people. I am not talking about sex organs; I am talking about energy. A woman can be very masculine and a man can be very feminine, but as a convention, I am using the term “man” for masculine energy and “woman” for feminine energy.

Who works from the heart, to work together, to bring the family together? Who talks from the heart? Women make a house a home. There is a reason why they are coming to the front of companies and countries. It is time for feminine energy. It is time for integrated energy. I tell the women who think that the way to be successful is to be more like a man, “Do not do that! Be a woman. That is your strength. That is what the world needs now.” We need energy from the heart. We need to be different together. We need feminine and masculine energy together. We need both. A family contains both energies, masculine and feminine.


Next: We put the palms of our hands together to pray. And what is that? Another example of integration. The right hand is related to the left hemisphere of the brain, and the left one is connected to the right hemisphere. We put our hands together and we pray to God to keep us together because we are falling apart: “Keep me together, my family together. Keep the world together.”

And how do we achieve that in a company? I have found that it takes mutual trust and respect. It is the same in a marriage and in a country. Mutual trust and respect. I cannot cover everything here, but here is the bottom line: There is no love if there is no mutual respect and trust. There is no integration without these. There is no peace without them. In Hebrew, the word for peace is “shalom.” It means “united, integrated wholeness.” When there is peace there is wholeness.

You need a culture in your company of mutual trust and respect. Do not let COVID destroy that. Do not let COVID destroy your country.

How do you do that? You need a common mission and shared values. You need an organizational structure where people do not step on each other’s toes. You need a disciplined decision-making process. You need to collaborate rather than judge each other and offend each other. You have to trust and respect the people you work with. If you have the right people and the right decision-making processes, you will be successful.

You have a compass. See where the star is: Are you enhancing mutual trust and respect or destroying it? Not only inside the company but also outside, with your suppliers, clients, and community. That is the driving force. That is how you should be managing all the time, especially in a time of crisis.

I thank you. Shalom.

Excerpts from a presentation made to the Presidents Forum at IEDC, Bled School of Management, Slovenia, October 9, 2020.


Dr. Ichak Adizes

About Dr. Ichak Adizes

Dr. Ichak Adizes is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading management experts. He has received 21 honorary doctorates and is the author of 27 books that have been translated into 36 languages. Dr. Adizes is recognized by Leadership Excellence Journal as one of the top thirty thought leaders of America.

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