Embracing the Thorn: Rethinking Normalcy and Leadership in an Uncertain World

What if you were told that a thorn in your foot was permanent? How would that impact the level of discomfort?

I believe that many of us are currently living lives with a false assumption that things will “go back to normal” – sometime. That if we can just push through the next few weeks, months or years that somehow this uncertainty, this pressure, this pace of change… will subside.

It is possible that this assumption is doing us harm.

A recent Gallup poll estimated that low employee engagement levels now cost the global economy $8.8 trillion annually or 9% of global GDP.

There are only so many times we can reach the peak of a mountain to be told that there is another peak in front of us. The inference that things will get easier – conveyed by many well-meaning leaders – often breeds cynicism, resignation and ultimately disengagement.

We need to be honest with ourselves and our people about the possibility that things may not “go back to normal”. That the thorn in our foot may be permanent. Perhaps counterintuitively, the acceptance of hard truths can be liberating.

How would we live our lives differently if we were to accept the fact that uncertainty, pressure and change might be here to stay?

How would we find enjoyment and fulfilment in the face of increased challenge and volatility?

How would we adapt our leadership approach?

Leaders need to come to terms with these questions themselves in order to support their teams and organisations to do the same.

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