Thoughts on entanglement
As I write this, we’re on the threshold of a New Year. I don’t generally set much store by this moment in the year: for me it’s usually just another day, with no particular significance other than its place on the calendar. Somehow, though, this year feels a bit different – and I think it’s because of what feels like the huge significance of what’s going on in the world.
Tangled up in the moment
Over the holidays, I took my grandchildren to the pantomime. The funniest moment was unintentionally hilarious: during a song-and-dance routine that became increasingly out of hand, the Dame whirled into the voluminous curtain at the back of the stage. In the process she pulled the curtain half-down, and got tangled up in it, unable to escape except with the help of stage hands who ran on to the stage. She was finally extricated from the curtain and resumed her place in the singing and dancing. Everyone – actors, stage crew and audience – was in fits of laughter.
The tangle and the Dame’s frantic efforts to escape, took all the attention – and once I was over my fits of laughter, it struck me as a metaphor. It’s so easy to get tangled up as we race through our lives, as a crisis, or even simply the demands of the moment grasp our attention. In the process the plot – our purpose and our place – of our lives might get completely lost, and we lose sight of the bigger picture (if indeed we ever had it). It’s prompted me to think (again) about why I’m here, and moved me to more serious topics.
The war in Ukraine – the incursion of a huge power, ravenous for territory – continues to cause untold misery. Repression in Afghanistan causes heartbreaking deprivation of all kinds. Loosening of the COVID reins in China, with inadequate vaccination, is creating a rampage of the virus.
Climate change this year has caused searing heat and wildfires in the UK, followed barely 5 months later by days on end of sub-zero temperatures.
Closer to home, food banks are run off their feet, while energy costs are causing desperate suffering to ordinary people who can’t afford to heat their homes. Many of these are the same people who are using food banks: people with jobs and salaries.
My place in these challenges
As the year turns, I’m reflecting on my place in these developments. Our society and our world look and feel very different from last year, and I’m exploring with curiosity where I belong in them. The quality of leadership – for all that it was critical before this year – feels even more critical now, and I’m conscious of my huge privilege in being able to work with leaders across a wide range of sectors, facilitating them to find and implement styles of leading which build on greater awareness, create greater psychological safety in their environments and thus more flourishing, bring more compassion and self-compassion, exercise greater wisdom and insight, enable for themselves greater personal peace and fulfilment, and contribute to creating a better society and a better world.
Responsibility matters. Leaders have a responsibility to themselves (to take care of themselves, to conduct themselves with integrity, to ensure they’re constantly learning and developing), to their people (to ensure a working environment in which those people feel safe and happy, can flourish and develop, and can deliver effectively to the society they operate within), to the healthy co-design and fulfilment of the missions of their organisations, and ultimately to the wider world (to ensure the operations and products of their organisations are ethical and make a contribution to preserving our precious planet).
Responsibility and relationship
We can’t just live and work as separate individuals if we’re to fulfil the responsibility of our roles as members of society and as leaders. In the view of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (2013), international religious leader, philosopher, award-winning author, and respected moral voice, ‘where what we want to do meets what is crying out to be done, that is where we should be’. And that demands being in healthy relationship with ourselves, with others, and with the systems we are part of.
As the we enter the new year, I’m exploring what becomes possible when I’m not tangled up in the backdrop, not only now when I feel fresh and renewed, but through the year, by stepping back from what seem to be the immediate imperatives – when I can take alternative perspectives. I’m reflecting in the same vein for my clients too.