Professional Development
COVID-19 / Finance / Leadership / Startups

4 tips on leadership in uncertain times from Ortus Academy’s CEO

As the company steps up to offer financial education to Baltimore businesses, Aaron Velky offers thoughts on transparency, preparation and figuring it out together: "Vulnerability in the face of this is critical to leadership."

Ortus Academy CEO Aaron Velky (facing crowd). (Photo by Marianne McGinley via

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating calls for social distancing. Amid the uncertainty and change, it can also be a time when people step up for the collective. In a society where each person has specific expertise, a crisis brings about a time to apply that for the good of everyone.

These ethos came into view this week in the form of a published letter from Ortus Academy CEO Aaron Velky. For five years, the company has worked to spread financial education, with a focus on folks under the age of 35.

With slowdowns and layoffs already being reported, it’s a time when finances are at top of mind for many. So the team is now offering up its services to businesses for free via weekly webinars and digital copies of online courses, as well as online games and education for parents.

“We believe we can positively impact communities by helping individuals and families learn about their financial options,” Velky wrote.

In addressing the financial uncertainty, it’s necessary to consider dollars and balance sheets — but it also requires leadership. That’s what is needed most, and in our own way we’re all leaders at this time, Velky said. It means stepping up to address people, bringing honesty and communication, even when it’s hard.

“Have transparent conversations with your team about the financial ramifications of your business’ situation,” he wrote. “What is the short-term scenario? What are potential mid and long-term scenarios? How will these affect their livelihoods? Be open. Be brave. They deserve to know,” he wrote.

That felt like good advice to anyone who is stepping up. Following up, asked Velky for some thoughts on how to have that conversation. Here’s what he sent over:

  1. Leaders don’t panic, but they do acknowledge fear and face it with their team together. They stand as the bottom of the pyramid and open their doors to listen to support their teams.

  2. Vulnerability in the face of this is critical to leadership. Share with your team what you’re feeling and afraid of. Acknowledge that we’re all together. Listen to their fears and if you don’t have the answer, say so. But commit to figuring it out together.

  3. We aren’t going to panic, but we are going to prepare. Preparation begins with immediate needs, then shifts to longer term as things get secured. Preparation might be more than just food — it could be technology to work from home, means to get things delivered, or borrowing office supplies for remote success.

  4. Leadership is not a role, it’s a decision. While it may be hard, scary, difficult, or even costly, it’s a responsibility that straddles the choice. If you choose to show up for your team, show up fully, and lean in on one, two and three to be humble enough to serve them.

Companies: Ortus Academy
Series: Coronavirus

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