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Leading in Turbulent Times – Being Street Smart in crisis!

Co-founder of Amara Collaboration Jane Allen points to the need to balance personal inquiry during the worldwide crisis and the need for action under pressure whilst much is uncertain and volatile. The commitment to step back for moments of reflection and disciplined inquiry leads to more timely action and maintaining strong composed leadership.

We are in a time of unprecedented challenge of an extreme kind – we still have power and, at the moment, good internet connection. Many are staying in one place social distancing, self- isolating, yet are not ill.

The leadership challenge right now is considerable. How decision makers lead in crisis can have a huge impact on the safety and wellbeing of a considerate number of people. Can we turn this time into an opportunity for new thinking and values?

The challenges of the Covid 19 virus calls for the ability to use all our potential. Possibly a new practice and discipline for many leaders which calls for a combination of clear logical, information and data-based thinking, and making measured and clear decisions. This is also, at the same time, showing compassion and care for oneself, the business, the family, and your people and their families, and communities for whom you are responsible in your leadership role.

The emergency and military services – such as fire and rescue, motorway police and the military who are known and skilled in crisis management, have for a long time provided after action review (AAR,) and processes to debrief from the personal trauma of handling dangerous and disastrous situations. This has become an established practice in many countries as a way of acknowledging the personal stress of being brave and clear headed in a crisis, and to prevent post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).

The current crisis isn’t the same as these previous incidents and calls for attention to ourselves, others and the situation at the same time. We describe this as the as First, Second and Third-person inquiry (or ‘I’ ‘We’ and ‘It’.)  Giving good attention, and the interplay to all of these simultaneously lead to ‘timely action,’ as described by Amara Co-Founder and Professor Emeritus, Bill Torbert.

The First Person Inquiry, the “me” perspective, is one that with some practice and discipline ensures that we notice the physical stress carried in our body, our emotional state, the assumptions and stories we are telling ourselves by doing this we become more clear about our personal intentions and motivation.

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The Second person, the “we” perspective, involves bringing our awareness to staying in relationship with others, and sensitivity to the relationship needs we have with them. So often senior leaders, experts and politicians speak from a position of clarity and important information, but if the “we-perspective” is not embodied or communicated with human kindness then it is often received as cold and uncaring. The Second person relational perspective helps us to cue into the light touches of compassion.

The Third person Inquiry, the “it” perspective, pays attention to data, objective fact, the wider system and context in the wider and outside world – the essential element in good efficient leadership and often prized above all else.

Each one of these without the other leads to imbalance. The first person without second and third can be self-absorbed and stuck. The second person, without the first and third can appear naval-gazing; and the third without first and second may appear cold, remote and not trustworthy.

In Amara we have been also giving time and focus to Fourth Person inquiry, which can be described as a perspective that involves zooming out completely, using our more visionary capability that connects to our ethics, values and spirituality – providing an almost timeless perspective that keeps us connected to the bigger picture of humankind and our humanity.

The practice of ‘inquiry in midst of action’ provides a space to step back for a moment from the pressure and compulsion to action, whether you are certain or not. Jim Collins in ‘Good to Great’ talks about Level 5 Leadership as a combination of determination and humility. Martin Luther King talked about the importance of the combined interplay of power and love. Their thoughts are great, but these are difficult dimensions to bring together without both a level of maturity in our leadership development, and protecting and ensuring the space in the busyness and pressure of the moment to keep balance and care.

At these stressful times of crisis and chaos we suggest creating your own ‘Thinking Space’ for the important decisions you will need to make for the coming months.

Thinking Space
The space has been established to support leaders to keep a balance  whilst they are carrying responsibility to swiftly make the big decisions and at the same time looking after the business and its people with compassion and care. Looking after themselves becomes an after thought.
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Thinking Space is to help to keep balance for leaders carrying responsibility to make the right decision to look after the business and its people. If a crisis is to be of any value it offers the possibility to redefine how we work, think, manage relationships and do business.

Jane Allen a Co-founder of Amara Collaboration tells how the book Street Smart Awareness and Inquiry-In-Action was brought alive and why. Learn more about the Book or Buy the book at Amazon.

In the book we present practices that are simple and manageable, underpinned by sophisticated techniques that will open up your thinking and acting, and develop and enrich your everyday life both at work and beyond.