Leadership is no masquerade
Our emergence from lockdown, whenever it comes, may require the physical wearing of masks – at least when we travel or are likely to be in contact with our fellow human beings beyond those we live with.
Yet the one thing we can’t do is don the ‘mask’ of leadership that we may have worn’ pre-virus. That mask for many was a mind-set and practices focused on targets, on getting the job done, on business as usual. Those old ways of being and doing are redundant. We can’t expect a return to the same old, same old. The world we encounter will be new and different – it is already. Our leadership must also evolve as this new world emerges.
What does this all mean? Well first there’s where we set our horizon. We need to move beyond local concerns and focus on how we and our organisations contribute to building a better world for all. Sure, our actions may only have an apparent local impact yet they are joining a much larger interdependent field of energy. So, every thought, every word, every action affects that field positively or otherwise and ripples out beyond the limits of the influence we feel we may have.
The compassion, kindness and caring we’ve extended in this period of crisis needs to become the ‘new normal’ – a consistent feature of our practice and behaviours even when we have tough decisions to make.
We need to strengthen our explorer muscles, to work with the emerging context rather than resisting it. That’s about being prepared to experiment, to fail, learn and go again. Just as we have had to over these past months.
Then there’s the ability to handle paradox and polarity – those competing priorities and problems that we’re tempted to try and resolve with ‘either/or’ choices when they’re unresolvable. By their very nature paradoxes and polarities are interdependent – consider the task vs relationship dimension that is a factor of organisational life. Only with ‘both/and’ thinking will we be able to handle such tensions well.
And, of course, all of this we kind of know and yet we don’t, for the future is uncertain so the key capability we must surely cultivate is our comfort with uncertainty, complexity and emergence.