Birthing, Learning, Leading in a time of (post) Pandemic
“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves”
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
The TAO of Tavistock is based on providing a containing/safe environment – a fundamental requirement for learning to take place. Creating such a container is dependent upon three boundary conditions: Time, Territory (or space) and Task. The three Ts of Tavistock.
In this last year, it has been deeply challenging to provide and hold these boundary conditions on every human level – personal, familial, professional, organisational, geographical, societal and political. Many of our assumptions, habits and behaviours have been challenged, re-visited, viscerally felt and sometimes viciously defended against. What is being called forth in us?
Leaders in this last year have found it harder than ever to be ‘enough’ or ‘good’ or ‘good enough’ (in the Winnicottian sense). We have encountered, more than we ever wanted, the meaning of being human – only human. Our leaders have lost their anchor of certainty and knowing in the face of the mutating virus and people under lockdown conditions are feeling increasingly dissatisfied and deprived of contact, connectedness, embodiment and movement.
Information has been overflowing and overwhelming – and not necessarily useful. Many people are struggling to make sense of the nature of this pandemic, receiving conflicting and contradictory guidelines and attempting to make comparisons between areas and countries – feeling both sameness with and difference from others, all at the same time.
We are yet to discover the long-term impact of the pandemic on our personal and professional lives – from physical and mental health, our young people’s dreams put on hold, trauma and post-trauma.
During the first lockdown, there was a lot of talk of the potential transformational behaviour that Covid-19 could lead to. We had images from all over the world of wildlife returning, less pollution from transport and a brighter sky – we felt solidarity and were virtuous about doing our bit for the planet – Covid was a lesson from mother nature; we made promises to each other across the globe to learn from Covid-19 and make it into an opportunity to look after our planet.
But after months of psychological deprivation and isolation from loved ones, from human contact, from breathing in each other’s company- are we still in the same place? People are fed up, frustrated and disillusioned; Because public transport isn’t encouraged, people are driving more than ever before; Grumpy cyclists and drivers, pedestrians and dog-walkers are back arguing, pushing, running over each other, fighting over spaces for walking or running or cycling – in contrast to the smiling faces during the first lockdown.
Instead of flowers, we have conspiracy theories flowering: from Covid isn’t real to anti-vax movements. Mental and physical health concerns are on the rise as are the anticipated effects of unemployment and general boredom. Health care systems are being overwhelmed by Covid patients and with backlogs of patient care building up.
What is called forth within us as leaders and agents of change with and for our communities? What are the implications for Work?
We often say that the Leicester conference provides a magnifying glass on the human dynamics we experience on a daily basis – in an environment which is safe and containing – to experience these from new perspectives and to learn about how we take up our roles and tasks in our organisations and communities.
This year feels different from usual – I have been hopeful that by the time of
Leicester 2021: 31 July – 13 August 2021, we will have more certainty about our Territory (or space) conditions. Alas, at the moment, the uncertainty continues and will probably accompany us throughout the coming months if not years.
We are all living the experience of the pandemic and its trauma is not behind us yet. The Leicester task of studying the here-and-now as it happens is more visceral than ever before and this will be a challenge, but a necessary one, to help us lead, learn and give birth to new meanings, to find our resilience, hope and reconnect with who we are and what we have become, and to be able to carry ourselves and our loved ones through – and beyond the pandemic.
What does learning together in Leicester mean in 2021?
Will you take the risk to join and explore?
I hope so.
Director, the Leicester conference 2021
If you have any questions about the conference, contact Emily Kyte.
To receive news about how we can work together and/or our 3-monthly Newsletter, join our mailing list – you can choose what you receive.