“Now if you feel that you can’t go on

Because all of your hope is gone.

And your life is filled with much confusion

Until happiness is just an illusion.

And your world around is crumblin’ down:

Darling, reach out…reach out for me.”  

(Credits to the incomparable Four Tops)

I have long subscribed to the belief that there is a song for every occasion, every human challenge. Sometimes it is about capturing a deep sense of grief; sometimes catching the power of euphoria and happiness. And sometimes, it is about finding a way to express anxiety.

We need to find ways to process what we are navigating, as companies, as departments, as neighborhoods and communities, as families and as people. And while part of what we are dealing with is the kind of anxiety expressed in the first verse of this classic song, the even more important expression is the chorus:

I’ll be there, with a love that will shelter you;

I’ll be there, with love that will see you through.

Yes: it is time to acknowledge that we are in very complicated, troubled times, and that we are ready to be there for others in ways we haven’t needed to be explicit about in the past. There are some existential things swirling around all of us.

I read a statistic today that 40% of Americans between 18-22 years of age are dealing with significant mental health challenges – unimaginable in our developed society. Even as we see statistics that our voters are divided almost 50:50 between red and blue, most of us are mourning the loss of the values that tie us all together as Americans. More than 220,000 Americans have died of a virus and we can’t seem to agree that we have a crisis with which to contend. The world as we have known it is ‘crumbling down,’ and we need to figure out how to move forward in ways that enable us to have confidence in our future, our shared fate. We are in this together, people.

I hope I am not helplessly naïve, but I do believe that what binds us together is greater than what has separated us in recent years. How do leaders – of companies and communities – play our part during such an extraordinary time? A few things have been weighing on me in this regard:

  • We can’t act like this context doesn’t matter; whatever line of work or activity we are leading, this current context is affecting our work and the work of those we lead. Not acknowledging that, and not giving our colleagues the support and space to cope is irresponsible. So, we don’t need to have all the answers, but we do need to acknowledge that there is a foundational problem affecting every single one of us;
  • We need to find the line between holding out false hope (‘this is all going to pass after the election’) and falling into pessimism (‘a pox on both political parties’). What ails this country right now goes beyond political parties;
  • I believe we need to be open to the possibility that the successful path forward is going to require working across boundaries of race, geography, economic strata…and ideology. That means the usual ‘conveners’ aren’t going to be credible, and some brave, compelling leaders are going to have to emerge. I predict they will be people with empathy, humor, data, humility and a unique blend of urgency and persistence. They are going to be people who love this country and its people;
  • Those of us not willing to step up and into that leadership work need to be prepared to support those who do. Not blindly, but thoughtfully and genuinely. If someone reaches out, we’ve got to be willing to do our part.

I’ll be there, to give you all the love you need. 

And I’ll be there, you can always depend on me.

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