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Leading yourself through the eye of the storm

Human beings are amazing. The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually pass. Medical science will save the day. At huge personal risk and cost, our heroes, the frontline doctors & nurses, supply chain workers, supermarket workers and other essential toilers, will get us through.

Quite likely, a global financial crisis will reshape our global economy and way of life, but this too will pass. Globalisation will, for a period, be replaced by localisation. Everything will change. Some will be paralysed or maddened by panic & many will make futile attempts to rebuild the world as it was. There will be others who seize this moment as the opportunity to create an entirely new beginning and create a new, better world for everyone. This is how civilization will rise phoenix like, from the mess we’ve made of things.

Opportunities will be abundant for those who are ready. Be one of them. Be ready.

During times of crisis, all ancient philosophies recommend self-examination, self-discipline, self-reliance and then, decisive action. Taoists and Stoics both tell us that chaos calls for inner calm and endurance, resilience, acceptance of ‘what-is’ and inner-wisdom to guide choices and decisions for what you can make happen. In today’s leadership language, it means…a great leader never reacts, but observes, reflects and then…acts decisively. This is leading yourself through the eye of the storm. This is leading in the eye of the storm.

A pendulum always swings. Prepare for the upswing and steer towards it.

The Greek word ‘crisis’ means a ‘judgment’ or a ‘trial.’ While testing our mettle, such trials rearrange our priorities. This is the time to look inside – to bring your core strengths into focus, to define what gives your life most meaning, to evaluate what you value most, to create a new vision of what you want your next chapter to look like, to make a plan and then to act decisively. Steer towards the upswing. Now is the time for this deep inner work, whilst you are in the eye of the storm, go inside. If you want a good structure for this, I highly recommend our Self-Managing Leader Online Course.

Ancient wisdom teaches ‘that which survives the shipwreck is the thing of value’. When surveying the scene to assess the damage after a crisis, be it a global pandemic or a private calamity, it’s wise to take stock of what remains intact before proceeding to reassemble our lives. Only then can our sense of disorientation and despair be replaced by reorientation and renewed purpose. Work emergent energies and the shockwaves of consequence in this crisis.

What’s on the other side of this madness? What opportunities is it revealing?

As we adjust to quarantine & isolation, we may soon realise how little we actually need, and how much more we can do without. This crisis can serve to shock us out of the complacency of false comforts, habits and routine, and teach us instead difficult lessons about life. It can reveal ourselves in a new light, with less regard for our tired old self-image.

This time can offer us the opportunity to do what we’d rather not: examine our lives more carefully. By forcing us to refine our attention as well as deepen our appreciation, we are granted the golden opportunity to rewrite our life journey:

If you want to become full,
Let yourself be empty.

If you want to be reborn,
Let yourself die.

If you want to be given everything
give everything up

Only in being lived by the Way
can you be truly yourself

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching Verse 22

Leadership & Operations

Brian Bacon

Brian Bacon is the Founder & Exec Chairman of Oxford Leadership.

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