Years ago, Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist, was asked by one of her students what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. Contrary to what one would expect, Mead didn’t talk about grinding stones, clay pots, or tools for hunting. Instead, she said that the first sign of civilization was a 15,000-year-old thighbone that had been broken and healed.
In the wild, a broken leg means a sure death: looking for water and food is no longer possible. The most obvious outcome is that we become meat for predators far before the bone has had a chance to regrow.
A healed thighbone is evidence that someone cared for the injured person, provided them with food, and offered them physical protection. “Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts,” Mead said.
Fast forward to 2020, where we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. About 2.6 billion people are in complete or partial lockdown in an attempt to “flatten the curve” – an unprecedented show of solidarity for vulnerable populations and the people working on the frontlines of the crisis.
The pandemic has far-reaching consequences for businesses and organizations worldwide and is placing extraordinary demands on leaders and employees.
Many of our clients have shared that in response to the current situation, a majority of their leaders have employed a task-focused leadership style. During the initial weeks of the crisis, the vast majority of organizations focused on prescribing necessary short-term solutions, meeting important safety and productivity objectives, and putting new structures in place.