These unique times confront us with choices never before experienced by most. For example, ‘to hoard or not to hoard?’ appears to have been a common question being asked by the wealthier of us all around the world. Friends of mine in the medical profession will increasingly have to ask, ‘who lives and who dies?’ when it comes to the shortage of ventilators for the critically ill. How close should I walk to strangers I pass in the park? (the answer is 2 metres). How do I productively fill a working day in my home and how on earth do I do that whilst at the same time home schooling? Last night a Doctor asked older folks on National Television in the UK to consider that if they got ill with the Virus did they want to choose to die in an ICU or at home? Just a few weeks ago these were non-questions, normally found only in the writings of conspiracy theorists and apocalyptic writers.
However, now they are real questions, they are yours and my questions which we have to find answers to. In my experience as a leader, how we answer challenging questions is heavily shaped by our prevailing mindset or our life posture. I also believe what mindset or posture we adopt is a choice.
The video link below was a clever piece of campaign research by the Dove Soap brand. Confronting women with the choice of walking through a door that had the words ‘Beautiful or Average’ written above it going into a public building. It is sadly revealing how the vast majority chose Average and speaks into the ‘image conscious’ scourge of our age. As I thought about this campaign, I reflected that for us as leaders the metaphor is not an unhelpful one. In our attempts to answer these new COVID questions we are confronted with choices written over the doors of our mindsets — Leader or Manager, Generous or Greedy, Courageous or Anxious, Fact-based or Fear-based, Hopeful or Despairing, Positive or Negative etc.
Each of these options are genuine choices, confronting our own natural fears, appetites and prejudices. We are not helpless victims in the face of an irresistible onslaught, but rather human beings with genuine agency of choice in the posture we adopt.
I am moved each night watching the news of Priests giving up personal ventilators for the sake of the young and dying as a result, medical staff putting themselves in harms way for the sake of others, communities gathering around the isolated and vulnerable in their vicinity. These are real people making real choices, adopting a life posture that is life giving and profound in the face of the current crisis.
For us as leaders, we may not face the same types of choices, but we still need to choose each day to walk through the right door. Choosing who we turn up as, leaning in with an intentional mindset that hopefully can model something powerful for those we lead. Even on a Video Conference our posture is keenly observed, through our verbal and physical language and tone. A positive choice not only helps those we lead, it also enhances our own resilience and wellbeing.
The video ends “..beautiful is a great word, why not see what’s on the other side of that”. A great question. As you begin each day, consider the words written over your doors and choose well.