I was walking past reception in our facility and saw the “Lost and Found” cart that housed all of the items children had “lost” when they attend our after-school program. I noticed the sweatshirts, water bottles, jackets, even a shoe or two. My brain catalogued those items in the file “2020 Losses” — my mindset as of late. Yours too? I’m not surprised. 2020 has been recklessly wreaking havoc in our lives for months.
As I’ve connected with leaders in the past months, I’ve seen a pattern emerge. In regards to the season of life the world is calling “2020,” people — leaders included — tend to gravitate to the loss rather than the found. It is our natural state as human beings; we lean into the negative most often. To be honest, some of us have become content or comfortable existing in that space because it’s what we know.
Executive Leadership Coaching often refers to the term “Complexity”: complexity of an organization, complexity of a team, and/or complexity of a project. In this moment, however, I would like to consider complexity as an individual leader in 2020.
Complex means: consisting of many different and connected parts. We are the definition of complex as we consider our mind, body and spirit. And yet, when circumstances challenge our safe space, how do we respond? I think we get stuck in a place of simplicity and singularity. In the case of 2020, we get stuck in one place: the LOSS.
If we were to create a list of the effects 2020 has had in our world, I wonder what it might look like. It will be easy to itemize the losses of 2020. It’s hard to avoid because the whole world — at least our whole country — is in that space too. It’s a bit of a feeding frenzy with the loss, the complaining, the hate, the politics and political unrest spewing each and every second over social media. It’s hard to escape. With that list come the emotions and triggers that can affect how we live and lead.
Here is a leadership challenge in the midst of 2020: Can we embrace our complexity? Can we train our brain to own the reality that our loss can exist right alongside with our found? Can we now choose to pause and shift so that we can itemize all we’ve found in 2020?
We cannot deny that there has been loss; we all agree on that. It’s natural to spend a lot of time focusing on that with our brains and our hearts. Totally normal.
However, as leaders, when we embrace how wonderfully complex we truly are, we do not have to stay in the dark space and hate-filled attitudes that dominate so much of the world right now. We do not have to stay stuck in the LOSS. We can own that space, leading in vulnerability, but also we can lead, growing comfortable in our individual complexity, as we choose to embrace the FOUND.
Practically speaking, it means noticing and making a plan. When you notice yourself leaning only to the loss of 2020; pause. Remind yourself it is ok to be there, as long as you don’t get stuck there. Perhaps your plan includes the practice of hitting reset with a walk, a few minutes of meditation, penning in your gratitude journal or reaching out to your coach. Choose what works for you. As you intentionally build this new brain muscle, take time to imagine. Imagine the influence your ability to live and lead in your complexity might have.
2020 has brought more loss than we might have ever imagined. It’s when we own the possibility that the loss can coexist with the found that we can lead our complex teams, organizations and projects with our individual complexity.