This year will forever be remembered as a year of loss – the loss of patience, privileges, jobs, and loved ones. We have seen what it is like to lose the things that we have done freely all our lives, like going to the movies or eating out without masks and without fear of getting sick. But it's also the year we've slowly regained what we've lost over time – real connections and a sense of humanity.
When we were forced to slow down and be more deliberate in our actions, we humiliated so many of us and made ourselves more human. Even when working from home eliminated the separation of personal and professional, we managed to build bridges of empathy between us through memes, virtual happy hours and catching up. Juggling children, dependents, and home schooling between zoom calls, appearing on virtual panels, and writing business plans opened the door to new ways of understanding myself as a leader. I've had more space to really digest the persistent inequalities in our society and understand how we as people and companies can be part of the solution.
This was also true of brands that were used to following strict guidelines and giving clear instructions on how and where to show up and when to stay on their trail. Well, those guidelines and safe spaces went out the window this year, when we couldn't hide behind our carefully crafted office people, brands also had to reveal their authentic selves and determine their place and voice in the world – because being neutral wasn't any Option more.
Around this time last year, Black Lives Matter was seen as controversial for many brands. This year, however, racial justice became an integral part of our corporate responsibility. It is unfortunate that it took several tragedies to build our unapologetic empathy muscle, but we are here now, and many of us are moving together toward justice. As a 20 year old marketing manager and activist at my core, it's really motivating to watch brands move from neutral positions on crucial issues to advocates for real change. It reaffirms why I love this industry and the power of communication.
During that time when we were all getting a bit more humble and authentic in our daily lives, it was about how brands had to act. The most successful brands were those that weren't afraid to be vulnerable. While authenticity has always been the focus of brand conversations, it has never been more accessible.
As a mother and wife – one of this year's work-life jugglers – so many courageous conversations and movements have led me around me, stretching myself out as a person and developing myself as a manager. The lifting of the professional veils behind which so many of us easily hid provided a raw glimpse into the needs of 21st century leaders. This was an opportunity to use transparency as a real tool that enables people to be effective at work and in the world. And this is only the beginning if we choose. We have the opportunity to ride this wave in the kind of job many of us dreamed of early in our careers. In the words of the amazing Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "If you want to be a real professional, you are doing something outside of yourself."