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Leadership in a crisis: better not alone (a ‘thank you’ to Martin Hawksey)

It’s been a few tough weeks and there is more of this ahead. The longer it lasts, the more I read about how we are all finding this harder than expected. Fellow CEO David Hughes recently wrote on Coronavirus: ‘This is more difficult than I expected’ in the TES and the post resonated with me and many others.

As a CEO, I am in a fortunate position in this crisis. I am not new in my role and I know my organisation well. I have a wonderful, inspiring Chair and active Board to work with who contribute their expertise and support me. I have a team of amazing colleagues, each of whom is working very hard, sharing tips on how to keep sane and we all support one other.

But leadership is still often a lonely gig and like the generous CEOs and leaders of other organisations I talk to are finding, it is particularly tough when you are facing uncertainty at a scale none of us have before.

Which is why, I am lucky to have Martin Hawksey as my deputy. As a senior leadership team of two we have been working together and running our organisation together for years. We chronicle our virtual adventures in leadership.

Martin is prolific in many areas of his work, and shines in his work for ALT and beyond, in the developer community, on the Google Apps circuit, when it comes to delivering events online and in the inner circles of spreadsheet experts. If you are not already a fan of his influential blog, you should be.

Frankly, I don’t think I know enough to fully understand how brilliant some of Martin’s more technical achievements really are – but I do see the results and they speak for themselves. He is a card carrying genius 😉

Like many reluctant leaders, Martin doesn’t push himself to the front and often shies away from the limelight. Even when he wins awards and receives accolades from his fans in edtech, dev circles, senior staff and keynote speakers everywhere, he receives their praise with self-effacing modesty.

That he doesn’t choose to take centre stage very often in public however, doesn’t mean that he isn’t an effective leader. His vision, his drive and energy are often what keeps us going. He finds solutions. He solves problems. He supports others and leads by example.

When I told Martin that we will have to change our business model, plans and budgets in response to the current crisis, that we are facing completely new challenges ahead, his response was “… oh, I may have a good idea… I’ll just get started then…”.

Being able to dig down into such resources of creativity and ideas is priceless at times like this.

When I first started running and I had no idea how to keep going and cover long distances, Martin’s advice was simple, but effective: “slow down, but don’t stop. Just keep going.” A year later I completed my first Half Marathon.

Martin has a combination of attributes that few people have: talent, skills, vision and heart. He is loyal and always tells me before I am about to make a wrong call. I can trust his judgement and he trusts mine.

Together we make an effective leadership team with a track record of successes stretching back many years. It’s a partnership that has helped both of us to thrive in our work. We have weathered many a crisis together and celebrated the best of times, too.

So, Martin, this is from me to you.

Thank you for being all round amazing and the best collaborator I could wish for. This Sunday evening from 7pm (BST), on #ds106radio, I am going to play Knights of Cydonia in appreciation and play it LOUD. If you, like me, are a fan #4life of Martin Hawksey, I invite you to tune in.