In 1606, an outbreak of plague reached Shakespeare’s home. He decided to self-isolate and, home alone, he wrote King Lear and Macbeth.
These are extraordinary times. No part of society is untouched by this virus. The Spring of 2020 will be a period certain to become a point of reference for anyone who lives through it.
It’s a time of emergency measures, but it’s also a time that will define us, our resilience and our leadership.
I was chronicling the habits of great leaders long before the virus arrived, and I’ll continue, with luck, long after it has moved on. And a common quality amongst them all, in political, military or corporate life has always been: ‘never waste a crisis’.
Life will always throw setbacks and disasters our way. We are defined by the way we respond. Do we snap or snap back? Do we withdraw and become resigned, or draw a line between the factors we can and can’t control and get resourceful?
Health permitting, this period of enforced isolation gives us a chance to do some real thinking. Many of us have long-dreamed of a life without a daily commute; without the relentless meeting schedule where our home lives barely exist between dawn and dusk.
I have discussed with a number of clients how over-scheduling, driven by technology, has become a cultural epidemic. They have come close to tears describing their inability to spend quality time at home without checking emails or receiving calls.
Great leaders have a chance to redress this. To rebalance their lives and to develop ways for colleagues to rebalance theirs. To put life in perspective, and understand that a few weeks away from the office may actually be beneficial to their health, diet and sleep. Use some of those spare minutes to chat to colleagues about how they are feeling rather than what they are doing. Ironically, a period when we are forced apart may give us a chance to reconnect.
Let’s reappraise. Strategize. Think about opportunities rather than restrictions. Let’s use the crisis of Spring 2020 to pave the way for a better world in its aftermath. This is a time to lead.