We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet...
The words ‘unprecedented’ and ‘strange’ are stamped across many of our communications right now. In messages to friends, we ask about their safety and their health. “I hope you are well" seems pathetic now, as it probably always was.
In any crisis, fatigue is an enemy. But in this one, it is sadly inevitable. In what used to pass for a crisis, there was a moment from which you could switch off and hand over to colleagues. Come up with some kind of shift system so the burden of leadership was momentarily lifted from your shoulders and borne by somebody else, while you rested and prepared to go again.
Not this time. This is a health crisis first and foremost and whatever leadership responsibilities you carry – whether as a parent or a son or daughter, a friend or a chief executive or political leader – you cannot ever shake off the perfectly natural and deeply personal worries about your health and the health of those you love.
We’re now at the end of a second week of this changed world and there are many more to come.
Families have been thrown together as many mothers, fathers, sons and daughters work from home. There is no such refuge for those on the frontline. People everywhere are working long hours and doubtless sleeping less, bothered by the lingering doubts about where this is going and how it will end.
At times like this, it will be hard to maintain consensus and of course there will be impassioned discussions about what action is needed not just to arrest this horrible virus, but to keep the social and economic wheels turning as best they can through the storm.
It will be more difficult still for our leaders to get every decision and every public utterance right. After all, we’re all blind to some extent. I know myself that I don’t know how to feel or act at times like this, because there have never been times like this.
People who stand on one side or another of what now seem like arguments for another day – constitutional, left, right, even football for goodness’ sake – must be given a licence to set aside their feelings for one another and for their causes, and be united. That will require real courage on their part, but a more forgiving echo chamber too.
We should be more understanding of people who don’t judge every situation perfectly, or who change or reverse a decision in light of new information or evidence. Those in leadership positions carry more of the burden than any of us, with the exception of course of the vast army of healthcare workers who stand between our lives and our deaths every day.
In due course, there is every chance that politics will go back to its ugly, adversarial normal. Though perhaps some perspective will have been added and the more optimistic among us may still hope for a little more kindness in the world. Maybe less shouting and more old-fashioned arguments based on thinking and not badges.
In these unprecedented, weird, strange, odd, difficult, testing, hard times, we’ve never needed friendship, kindness and forgiveness more. When people say sorry and it’s clear they genuinely mean it, let’s accept those apologies and move on.
I am mindful of those big digital signs that hang over many of our main roads. They tell us that TIREDNESS CAN KILL. It’s true. Kindness on the other hand, does not.
Written by Malcolm Robertson, Founding Partner
27 March 2020