The people you’re leading have changed

michael barbaro: You’re saying the British people saw this as a moment to look in their prime minister’s soul, and they don’t like what they’re seeing?

mark landler: That’s right. I think that some of what was acceptable two years ago in a new environment, in this serious post-Covid, post-Brexit world somehow doesn’t look as acceptable anymore. The hypocrisy that could have been laughed off earlier can no longer be laughed off.

And so I think that’s really, when you get right down it, what’s happened to Boris Johnson. He hasn’t changed, but the people he’s leading have changed. And crucially, they’ve changed how they view him.

From How Partying Could Be Boris Johnson’s Undoing, on The Daily

We’re coming up on the second anniversary of when COVID started changing the world, friends. As experienced leaders know, the body remembers — and very often has a better alarm system than our over-stimulated, distracted brains. This means that you, along with everyone in your team, community, family, and organization, are sailing into a storm of possibly subtle, but irresistible emotional turmoil. 

I know, count on me for a sunny outlook, right?

Now, we’ve been through this before. If you look back at your notes, or think back to what it was like to collaborate with humans this time last year, you’ll see a lot of what you’re likely to see in the coming months: “wow so many people struggling,” “that project got unexpectedly complicated,” “things going really slow/fast/sideways right now,” “something’s off but I can’t figure out what.”

Yep, more of that is on the horizon. But wait, there’s more!

Listen: everyone you know has now been through 2 years of trauma. THE WHOLE WORLD has suffered two years of trauma, and that trauma was laid on top of all the trauma and suffering — from systemic oppression, from climate collapse, from economic inequality, from everything else that’s already painful about life — that was already happening!

During any given stage of this pandemic, everyone you know has thought about how they might die, sometime soon. Loved ones have died, or become incapacitated by long COVID. We’ve been robbed of rituals, celebrations, and traditions, at a time when we needed them most! Decisions about going to a party have become, unpredictably, life-and-death decisions. WTAF.

Person Wearing Grey and Orange Hoodie Sitting on Brown Wooden Park Bench during Daytime
Photo by Serkan Gu00f6ktay on

We lucky people who have survived this pandemic so far… we have adapted. I love how adaptable humans are; we survive things that we don’t even think we can survive. At work (unless your work is healthcare and if so, I can’t even start to express how grateful I am for your work and how sorry I am that it’s so awful these days) or in your family or community, it might even have felt like you were getting “back to normal,” or “back to business.” And we’re so eager for that, right? For the trauma to end, for all this nonsense to just be over. 

But leaders, remember: adaptation is change. To survive this terrible time, everyone in the world has had to change.

We didn’t want to! In many cases, we hate that we’ve changed. In many other cases, the change has been unexpectedly meaningful and freeing. AND, if you try to act like things are normal (even “new normal”) right now, you are going to screw it up; maybe you’re already screwing it up, and you just now realized how. 

So here’s my thought: what if we approach these next few months as if we’re starting anew? Find all your assumptions — assumptions about your work, your community, your family, your organization, yourself… go as far as you dare. And then question them ALL. 

Woman Looking at Sunset
Photo by Pixabay on

Get to know your people again, as if for the first time. Ask them if they need different things from you, the team, or the community. See if they want to work on something else, or explore a different approach to their work, or a new part of your organization. Review your leadership tools, and see if you’re still using the right ones. Get flexible in new ways. Rethink your old plans, to see if they fit with this new world we live in. 

And while we’re on the subject, these next few months are probably the wrong time for your sunny-rah-rah disposition to be a primary leadership tool. Suffering is everywhere these days: stinky, despair-tinged, anxious, exhausted, “I don’t know how I get through this” suffering. Promising that everything’s going to work out… is not helpful right now; it’s tone-deaf. We haven’t been fine for a very long while, thank you very much. 

Bree Newsome is an amazing writer, producer, activist, artist, and consultant.

We survive best by staying connected. You can’t fake connection, so turn up the volume on the respect and authenticity you bring to your work and conversations. Connect with your people in their struggle, hold space for their pain, bear witness to their suffering. If you can do so without making everything about you, share what you’re wrestling with as well. Don’t try to fix them; cherish your people *in* their pain, and stick with them as they navigate it.

The only way out is through; let’s all work toward coming through, together. 

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