A giant ear listening to a crowd of people

Big read: The untold story of how therapists turned leaders

A story for the ages.

Tanmoy Goswami
Welcome to story #8 of the Happy Things series. If you enjoy my work and have benefited from it, help me keep going by clicking one of the buttons below.

In 1987, the US Army War College coined a term to describe the new, post-Cold War world order. They called it VUCA — volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Over the next few decades, VUCA would outgrow its military roots and establish itself as a staple of business management. In a rapidly globalising marketplace riddled with unpredictable challenges, the ultimate leader was one who could master volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity on their feet.

The pandemic dramatically accelerated the evolution of the VUCA world. Plunged into terrifying chaos, we desperately needed a brand-new template of leadership. And one unlikely tribe put up its hand:


Much has been written about how therapists saved society from complete psychological collapse during the pandemic. The story that hasn't been told is how they reinvented themselves as entrepreneurs and leaders, managing exploding workloads, protecting burnt-out colleagues, and grappling with the overnight switch to technology, even as they struggled with grief and loss in their own lives.

Historically, psychotherapy played second fiddle to psychiatry in the mental health ecosystem. The archetypal therapist was a solo, reclusive, enigmatic figure. Therapy wasn't seen as a legitimate business, with workplace and team dynamics like any other business. The pandemic upended all this, fundamentally transforming the profession as well as society’s relationship with it.

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