The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

From outside-in to inside-out

Listening to the requests for leadership these months, it is evident that there are more expectations than responses. There is no solution to such a situation. Things are way too complex to create a situation in which everyone is treated like they would deserve to be treated.

No leadership can do this.

And it’s rarely what people ask for. That’s true for a situation like ours as well as for most team situations. People are adaptable and tolerant.

What they need though is a sense of hope, a sense that something around them is dependable. That is a sense of safety.

In a VUCA world that is disrupted by a pandemic, it is harder than ever to connect with such a sense. It’s not that it doesn’t exist, it is more that it cannot be the same as it was prior to the internet. The work to establish such a sense has been split between leaders and followers in an unprecedented way.

With everyone having a well of information available expectations towards accuracy and ability to synthesize it is now a shared task. What was left to leaders in the past is now a task available to everyone. Taking it up comes with responsibility.

Watching a game of soccer and knowing better than the coach what should be done is fine when one is neither a player nor the coach. It’s very different if one is a player and the coach one’s boss. The latter means that there is an agreement on who does what. The former works well as long as there is neither responsibility nor consequences linked to it.

It means that our ability for critical thinking needs to serve us figuring out, what is that all the institutions and leadership around us can be dependable for. It requires reevaluating promises as well as expectations involved.

And yet, critical thinking is only one part of the job. There is also an emotional aspect to tend to. It is to realize that things derail when people stay in a state in which they don’t feel safe.

It is an awareness all those involved in a group and those leading that group have to develop and use. It means to sense when anxiety is present as well as to stay aware of the choice it leads to.

And it means to attend to one’s own responsibility to feel safe and to contribute to other people’s need for safety. Beware, this includes asking for help if feeling safe isn’t accessible. It doesn’t include simply dumping one’s need onto others.


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