There is much debate on how leaders should be behaving in these extraordinary times. Hundreds of theories, more than most unproven, pose more confusion than they do solace, because the truth is that nobody is sure.
Perhaps a far more interesting question has arisen during this forced, and largely unwelcome, pause. Take away the promotions, the money, the hamster wheel of a pre-Covid life, and what is left behind? How do we behave, how do we exist and, crucially, who are we being?
Since the end of WW2 the world has been on an exponential trajectory to perfect radical hedonism, all too evident in the declining empires of the past. As philospher Thomas Hobbes suggested, many years ago, life has been “the continuous progress from one greed to another”. The endless pursuit of pleasure is driven by the results of what we do. A better education means a better job, which means a better salary and a bigger bonus, which means a better house, or a better car which supposedly equals happiness.
The world is, perhaps more than slightly, obsessed with getting, doing, achieving, delivering.
For many, this uninvited shutdown of life as we know it, has given us time to reconsider quite simply, what makes us happy. Perhaps many of us have even considered that what we do and how we lead, may have been inappropriately shaped. Could our decisions and our actions possibly be fuelled by external forces, and disconnected from a deeper, more personal purpose?
I believe that a fundamental principle of truly effective leadership cannot come out of what we do, but rather who we are. We are, after all, ‘human beings’ so why do we live our lives as ‘human doings’?
Let us consider that analogy of the magnificent, hundred-year-old Baobab. It is majestic, and seemingly indestructible. It exists in total harmony with the ever-changing environment and remains a relevant life-source for many. This ability is totally dependent on the depth of it roots. Without roots, it cannot sustain itself. It will get blown over easily, wilt and ultimately die. Whatever is delivered above the ground is completely dependent on the roots.
The roots come before the fruits, just as we are human beings before we are human doings. There, at the root of our being, amidst our vulnerabilities, we can find our personal purpose and values for the way we want to live our lives.
The abundance of fruit will always be dependent on the strength and depth of the Baobab’s roots. Our actions are the result of how deep our being is rooted. If our own roots are weak and shallow, our fruits will not be sustained. The deeper we dig, the greater our ability to produce and sustain abundance. As in life, it is difficult to talk yourself out of something that you have behaved yourself into. Who you are being holds more power than what you are doing. As with the great Baobab, to ‘do’ effectively, we must ‘be’ authentically.
Yes, what we do, is essential to leadership performance. But it is only when we lead out of an authentic state of being, that we can truly sustain value and abundance for humanity.