It is interesting, the divergent thoughts and feelings that I experience during times of extreme stress and uncertainty. Perhaps like you, I find that they can be all over the map, changing from day to day, as well as moment to moment. Right now, I am thinking of Eric Clapton.
Why, of all people, am I thinking of Eric Clapton? Clapton comes to mind because, as I learned in his autobiography, he is a recovering alcoholic (and addict). Which got me to thinking. When he participates in Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meetings, he is not Eric Clapton the iconic musician and “guitar god.” He is Eric the alcoholic, sharing the same experiences and struggles other recovering alcoholics do. “I am Eric and I am an alcoholic.”
It occurred to me that each of us is in the same boat as each other, regarding the coronavirus. “I am Rob and I am living during the Covid-19 crisis” the same as everyone else.
What can AA participants teach us about how to live and lead better in the time of coronavirus? And why it matters?
Like alcoholism and other addictions, coronavirus does not discriminate. It can and does affect people, regardless of their level of wealth, position, status, religion, ethnicity, intelligence, or education. Anyone can be susceptible. Some are impacted directly, while many more are affected indirectly.
Our individual life circumstances are different. Eric Clapton’s situation is different than a meeting participant who has become estranged from their family and is danger of becoming homeless.
However, during AA meetings, each participant is the same, regardless of whether they are the owner of a company, a top salesperson, a renowned surgeon, the coach of their child’s soccer team or an iconic musician. They are alcoholics who share their experience, strength and hope with one another. Similarly, all of us are all freaked out and stressed by the coronavirus. We have this in common.
By dropping the trappings of their positions and roles in life, participants in AA practice extreme honesty, vulnerability, and acceptance of self and others. Together, the elements create psychologically safe environments. These uncommon conditions make it safe to share openly with one another. It is good and important to be safe.
Each of us, as leaders of ourselves, our families, communities, and organizations during crises are being asked to support one another, remind others that they are not alone and that they matter. This is achieved through “being with” people, figuratively and otherwise: listening, accepting, and offering shared experience, strength, and hope.
This is akin to relating to people who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Attempts to fix things, tell them what they should be doing or how they should be feeling do not help, often hurt and are unwelcome. Being there, relating to them with empathy, on a peer-to-peer level is a big part of what is needed and is almost always welcome.
While we need to do what we can to execute what is required at any given moment, it is important to realize that sometimes the most important thing we can “do” is to stop, in order to “be with,” especially during times like these. This is a crucial way of practicing leadership.
For leaders who are used to action aimed at achieving results, “being with” physically (with proper distancing), through video conferencing, over the phone or in other ways may be one of the most difficult things to do. It also, may be among the most important. During this period of crisis, we are being called on to both “do” and “be,” in service to others.
We all want leaders who are:
1. One of us
2. Care about us
3. Represent the best of us.
What are you being called to “be” and “do” right now?
“My name is Rob and I am living in Philadelphia during the time of the coronavirus, these are some of my thoughts and feelings… What are yours?”
Stay safe and be well.
Robert Hackman is the founder and principal of 4C Consulting, an Executive Coaching and Consulting company that helps companies and their people retain and restore trust during a pandemic. He can be reached by voice or text at 484.800.2203, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org,