One of the most profound realization I’ve had over the past several months is this — we’re either in a crisis or preparing for one. It doesn’t have to be at a global scale like the COVID-19 pandemic; something as personal as missing a few deadlines or a couple of credit card payments are enough to shake your world up.
Regardless, as a leader, your responsibility isn’t just to reassure others but also yourself that a global or personal crisis isn’t the end of the world. No matter how grave it is. And that you can always recalibrate, reload, and readjust your priorities. So long as you stay focused.
I think that’s where most leaders are missing out on. They’re getting distracted by what’s happening to the economy, the world at large, their bottom-line, and worse — the future. Of course, they’re all genuine concerns but deliberating on them isn’t your priority as a leader.
Letting a crisis pull you away from your life and priorities means there’s a high likelihood that you will (in John Maxwell’s words) lose sight of reality, lose touch with hope, and fall prey to anxiety! And all of this will affect your people, their welfare, and ultimately your mission in life. Don’t let it.
I discovered this profound excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ essay “On Living in an Atomic Age” written days after the Hiroshima bombing in August 1948. It’s surprisingly so relevant to what’s going on around us:
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.C.S. Lewis, “On Living in an Atomic Age”
So, powerful and relevant, isn’t it? And I think every leader shouldn’t just read this every single day but also print it out and pass it around. It’s that damn valuable!
As a leader you must discipline yourself to stay focused during a crisis. You can’t afford to get distracted. Your people are you counting on you. Heck, the future is depending on you.