I have been on Twitter on minute-by-minute basis this last week, trying to understand the unfolding trends of coronavirus and what lessons are already emerging in how countries and leaders are handling the situation.
Many of us are scared, trying to understand what is happening in other countries, which measures seem effective (washing hands, social distancing), and frustrated by not seeing clear instructions or directive action taken by governments (unless you are in New Zealand).
Twitter however is not all doom and gloom: people are posting tips how to work better from home, which movies and books one should get, posting videos of Italians singing together even if they can’t physically even meet, and tips on how to support small and medium businesses in particular with restaurants shut, and events cancelled.
This blog won’t have the answers (sorry!) but more reflections as to what people seem to be highlighting as an opportunity for change, and what leadership lessons are embedded here.
Start and continue with global empathy
In Rehumanizing Leadership: Putting Purpose Back into Business, Sudhanshu Palsule and Michael Chavez note that the dominant narrative has been for decades that we are only interested in ourselves and that is what we go for regardless of what happens to others in the process.
Sure, there is also the ugly side of humanity showing up with talks about rich people trying to buy the vaccine before it gets out to market, hoarding food (and toilet paper).
Yet, even the basics of neuroscience show how we mirror each other, and how grounded and rooted human beings are in empathy, regardless of the challenge.
Empathy is one of the 21st skills that we absolutely need and should cultivate: caring for each other, looking at things from other people’s perspectives can enable us to have better conversations and more meaningful relationships.
During this coronavirus pandemic, stories are emerging that show the extent of true empathy: people actually helping the elderly, supporting those whose loved ones have been diagnosed with the virus, and paying more attention to their own habits that can stop the spread of the virus.
Perhaps this crises can remind us that each of us is a part now of a global network where our actions do matter.
Holding onto a mindset of possibility and innovation
I know this is probably now sounding like fairytale-thinking but holding onto a different mindset is what often sustains people and helps them to go through a tough situation.
I was really pleasantly surprised to see Todd Herman posting on Instagram how he has been interviewing 29 CEOs on their current mindset during the coronavirus crises:
What he has basically discovered is that CEOs seem to have 1 in 3 mindsets: either they are Fear-focused (and consuming lots of media non-stop), Un-focused (not really being able to make decisions) and Focused (focusing on information and seeing growth and opportunities).
While he is in the midst of diving further into his transcripts, this already shows at least to me that how we react in crises says a lot about how we lead and the kind of mindset we have.
I have to say that it has been personally hard to make informed decisions and not panic and clearly spending lots of time on Twitter is not helping although I have also seen some balanced reporting that has helped.
But it is more the everyday decisions many of us face: should we send our kids to school? Should we, if we can, switch to remote work and only do virtual meetings? Should my child go to his drum lesson and theatre class? Is it safe to go to public playgrounds?
On top of these everyday decisions, there is also uncertainty whether the world as we knew it will come back in the same form it was, and whether that’s even ideal?
Many are calling for changes in how we live and work, highlighting this global crises as an opportunity to rethink the world economic system, the imbalances in it, and how vulnerable our systems are for something like this.
But there are increasingly also calls for seeing this event as an opportunity to have a much deeper conversation about inequality, and how we as a global community need to do better.
Going into global caring pod mode
The reality is that this is now what we are facing: increasing uncertainty about how this pandemic behaves and how we manage this situation.
I don’t have any solutions except washing hands and doing social distancing while also trying to balance those everyday things that we each need to feel happy.
One of my friends just tweeted that “be kind” as we don’t know what each of us is going through especially now.
I think if there is anything we can learn from this situation is that empathy should, could and can trump the feelings of fear and isolation.
Just like those CEOs who have the Focused-mindset, we too can see what opportunities this situation brings and whether we can see the positive side of this and focus on our family, ourselves, and those around us who might need help.
Another colleague noted that we are now in pods (social distancing) but we should not break the chain between those pods.
So let’s keep connecting in ways that we can and remember to care for ourselves and for each other in this era of increasing uncertainty.
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