This Saturday marks July 4th, Independence Day, a day where Americans celebrate the USA’s Declaration of Independence in 1776, freedom, and liberty for all with barbeques and fireworks. The last time LLC reached out to our network about a holiday it was Juneteenth, the celebration of African Americans emancipation from chattel slavery in 1865.
Juneteenth, a holiday many are only recently discovering, celebrates the emancipation of the last U.S. slaves more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The racially disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade, and many others at the hands of police and white supremacists reveal that while emancipated, black Americans are still seeking full liberation.
At LLC our hearts are heavy, and for those of us who identify as people of color, we are exhausted. On this National Day of Mourning, we want to acknowledge and hold the pain and trauma many of you are experiencing as well. As evidenced by the murder of George Floyd and the disproportionate COVID-19 deaths of people of color, we see that racism is killing people of color.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents the leadership field with the challenge of both responding to the crisis in our communities while learning to operate in fundamentally different ways. It also offers us the opportunity to reimagine how leadership in a Post-COVID-19 world could look. The “new” normal doesn’t have to just replicate the imperfect and inequitable old normal. It would be a missed opportunity, and a disservice to our communities to just go back to business as usual.
In the midst of all of the fear, anger, and anxiety I, like perhaps many of you, am experiencing right now, I’ve been pushing myself to focus on appreciation for areas of abundance in my life. I’m thankful to have my health, a safe and healthy family, meaningful employment and an amazing network of friends, colleagues, and friend-colleagues (frigues?), who have reached out to connect with me during this scary time. I’ve felt fortunate to be in relationship with them, to share virtual space with them, and to have the opportunity to continue to learn from them. Every webinar, conversation, internal LLC conversation, virtual coffee or brunch I’ve joined in the last few weeks has really helped me think about how leadership can adapt to the new reality precipitated by COVID-19. What has struck me is how generous folks are with their amazing ideas, rather than proprietary.
Given the fundamental shake-up COVID-19 has done to the world, one of my amazing friend-colleagues, Stephanie Yazgi, has been encouraging folks to consider “reckless reimagination” as a way to think about what our work and world could be like. This has inspired me to begin recklessly reimagining leadership. As I have been talking with folks and thinking about what leadership could look like, three questions arose:
A Virtual Leadership Development Resource:
As everyone is scrambling to adapt to a rapidly changing COVID environment many leadership programs are asking how to move their work online. A week ago in partnership with LLC friend Marian Urquilla who asked us this question, we hosted a virtual session to tap your experiences, wisdom and creativity in charting new territory for leadership development work. Close to 140 people attended the session, deeping questions and offering recommendations that have been synthesized in this google doc so that anyone can continue to contribute ideas and recommendations. Thanks to those of you who contributed already and to those who will share ideas and resources.
LLC has been a completely remote organization for several years, so the move to social distancing, work from home practices to slow the spread of COVID-19 hasn’t changed the mechanics of how we work, but it has most certainly changed the feel of our work. We are all concerned about the welfare of our families, friends, and communities. We contemplate the contributions our work can have in these times, and the role of leadership during a crisis like this one.
Reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 has made me re-connect with LLC’s mission, underscoring why equity-centered, networked, and collective leadership working to advance justice really matters. It has illuminated the need for connection and collaboration, care and compassion, reflected in the thoughtfulness of many in our communities who are working hard to support others. This crisis has further exposed the huge number of people in our country, and in the world, who have been marginalized, the gaps in our safety nets, and in too many cases, weaknesses in our leadership.
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How can we support those who are leading in wildly different and difficult times?
The need for leadership is more pressing than ever in the current COVID-19 pandemic and there have been some interesting conversations about the kind of leadership needed...and lets keep those ideas coming, but what about the “How? How can we provide leadership support virtually as we practice social distancing. Luckily, a number of leadership practitioners have been experimenting with virtual learning for a while and some folks have been experimenting with virtual communities of practice and networks as vehicles for supporting and developing leadership. No doubt, some of you have already come up with innovations in the past week. Let’s bring all of our experiences together, the good and the bad, so that we learn more quickly together about how to best support those who are leading in wildly different and difficult times.
Amidst the daily bleak news and suffering around the world, I am heartened by action being promoted and taken on behalf of shared responsibility for our collective health. Most people who have passed by a TV screen or looked at the news are now aware of the need to #flattenthecurve. We all have to change our behaviors and practice social distancing if we are to slow the spread of a very contagious disease in order to limit a spike that would overwhelm the medical system. This means that even people who are low risk need to adopt behaviors that require some sacrifice so that they are not spreading the disease. If we are to reduce the spread and mortality of Covid-19, we need to take a hard look at the cost of individualism and inequity that are ingrained into life in the U.S.