What a difference a week makes! Last Sunday I blogged about how to lead during a panic epidemic. (Thanks for all the shares!) Who knew that one week later, schools & universities would be closed, sports seasons cancelled, and sudden onset TPDS – Toilet Paper Derangement Syndrome – the irresistible urge to buy more toilet paper than can be used in a year. What will next Sunday bring? Who knows! For now, let’s tackle the OPPORTUNITY of unexpectedly leading or working from home.
One of my favorite authors, James Thurber, wrote a story called, “The Day the Dam Broke.” It’s a memory from his childhood in Columbus, after the great flood of 1913, when someone yelled, “The dam broke!” A population already stoked by fear from the flood began to bolt down Main Street, certain that they were about to be smashed to bits by a roaring wall of water. Later, when thousands of people sheepishly returned to their homes, they learned they had never been in any danger at all. The dam didn’t break. The panic was more dangerous to residents than the perceived peril.
I have a theory. My theory is that there is an inverse relationship between status/power/rank and open demonstrations of good will. (When I was an engineer we spoke gleefully about inverse relationships as if they were the best kind to have.) In short, the higher we climb in life (status, power, rank) the less we see open kindness within that “elite” community. Life becomes more dog eat dog, me versus you, and good will between competitors (those other leaders in the corporate, non-profit, sports world, or anyone deemed as “on the opposing team”) can be difficult to find. Good will may look like weakness to some, but of course, the opposite is true. However, this notion of weakness can make it more difficult for our young people to understand that good will can be part of a viable success strategy. Plus, it’s free. Doesn’t cost you a dime.
Remember when you were little and learned about George Washington chopping down his father’s precious cherry tree, and then fessing up? This lesson was shared so that we, as kids, wouldn’t tell a lie. I think 200 years from now, in some Ancient American History course, a teacher will tell kids about a Little Big Man and proclaim, “He wouldn’t let anything stop him.” Kids will say, “I won’t let anything stop me, either!”
Remember when you were young and playing with friends and a situation came up where there was tension and fear? Maybe you were double-daring one another to do something. Typically, someone said, “You go first!” Going first takes courage.