In these unprecedented times, even the wisest and the best leaders among us are challenged. Nothing, no amount of training, could have prepared us for the magnitude of all that we are facing.
As leaders we are accustomed to uncharted territory, but this pandemic and its immediate and longer term impact is bigger than all of us.
It is summoning every ounce of patience, courage, intestinal fortitude and grace that we can muster…and in my humble opinion, it is also unleashing our inner “woo woo”.
I can feel the slight uneasiness as you read the words woo woo. I have yet to read woo woo on the pages of any business or management book or article.
Wisdom on the other hand, is the foundation for every leadership principle. We all understand and accept wisdom as a required leadership trait.
We all expect that our leaders have either gathered sufficient knowledge and expertise (aka wisdom) themselves and/or surrounded themselves with others who can fill their knowledge and/or experience gaps to lead, and provide counsel and direction. That is why leaders are leaders. And this is why people follow them.
On the other hand, woo woo is not an easy requirement to discuss or even propose and it certainly has never shown up on a performance review. Imagine parameters that allow for the self and/or peer evaluation of self-awareness, enlightenment, spirituality.
Nor do any of these characteristics make the list when you google “top leadership traits”. And yet, it’s there. Woo woo is implicit in empathy, self-awareness, gratitude – the traits that require leaders to listen, to be vulnerable and to be authentic.
What is woo woo?
When you google the term the definition begins with “unconventional beliefs…especially those relating to spirituality…”* and that is why many are averse to the use of the term. Yet these unconventional beliefs are at the core of our humanity and are in fact what has made some of the greatest leaders, great!
Woo woo is that inner voice that ponders the greatest wonders of the world, our reason for being, our humanity and fosters a collective awareness and consciousness. For some that voice is alive, well and flourishing daily. For others, it is a voice that has been silenced, perhaps even caged or more dramatically its existence denied.
Although I would argue that many great leaders have always summoned their inner woo woo, it was never discussed, never said out loud. Truth is, it is within all of us – like it and leverage it or not.
The requirements for all of us, let alone leaders are not what they were 10 months ago. That said, the groundwork for managing these changes was beginning to gain momentum in the years preceding. Meditation rooms and mindfulness workshops were starting to show up in offices and business course offerings. The climate was changing based on demand and desire.
Now, as we sit in this new unchartered territory we are forced to bring to the surface these woo woo skills in our depths. Clearly what was working in the past wasn’t really working. Change was upon us, the pandemic has forced the urgency. We have lost so many of the structured and typical aspects of working life that gave us comfort, confidence, security and helped us to manage change. Hallway hellos, teaching moments, water cooler conversations, team building exercises,…I could go on and on about the undervalued nuances to our days. These situations were in fact fundamental to what made our organizations thrive and inspired our people. The conversations and relationships that ensued during these moments often fostered innovation, empathy and problem solving with ease versus intent. It was these random moments that defined and enhanced our corporate cultures and our businesses. The challenge now, is how to foster culture when we are remote, virtual, facing uncontrollable situations and afraid.
There is no blueprint on how to rise to these challenges. Therefore, it requires the leaders within all of us to lean into our wisdom and our inner woo woo. To be vulnerable, to share our inner dialogues, our beliefs and values. To admit what we know, what we don’t know, and to work with everyone in our organizations to figure this out together. Together is in fact the ONLY solution. Together as organizations, as families, as governments, as humanity.
There have been lots of articles during the pandemic regarding what it takes to lead during these times. I have yet to see one include woo woo – hence the reason I wrote this article.
Right now our leadership instincts need to be balanced with our core humanity in order to ensure that we not only survive this pandemic, but also continue to rebuild as we re-gain some degree of control, sustenance and confidence.
Bottomline it is not about whether we can or cannot handle the challenges we are currently facing and the many more ahead but rather, whether we can manage our minds, the dialogue and work collectively.
Woo woo is the missing link and I would suggest the most critical leadership, but more importantly human trait that we need to lean into as we manage the days ahead.
Bring it on! Namaste.
*Sources: Oxford dictionary definition of woo woo, Photo: Unsplash