How to welcome transformation during crisis

Ale Duarte 1
Article by: Ale Duarte
How to welcome transformation during crisis

The coronavirus pandemic presents a special moment in humanity. It's a unique time where we're experiencing collective uncertainty, grief, and a whole range of both positive and negative emotions.


As a somatic educator – with 15+ years of training professionals in the fields of psychology, education, and body-oriented therapy, and working directly with victims, survivors, and frontline workers in the aftermath of natural disasters and conflicts – here are three important points to keep in mind as a leader navigating crisis and uncertainty:



1. Don't cap your emotions

Emotions are your inner compass; they ground you in reality and help you empathize with others.

In this crisis, a lot of things are going to trigger you. But, now is the time to be triggered. I believe we need to take advantage of this moment of being emotionally challenged. We need to expand our collective leadership resilience by increasing our level of tolerance. How might we not only manage our energy, but also stay in this level of intolerance and uneasiness? Perhaps experiencing this uneasiness will raise our “emotional bars,” allowing us to withstand more because we don’t know if this is the beginning, middle, or end.

This crisis is also going to bring up our past – and if you didn’t have the resilience to cope with what happened then, you’re going to be triggered again and make a lot of decisions based on fear and your unexplored past.

The pandemic is bringing up one particular story in my past: In 2005, I traveled to Asia in the aftermath of the tsunami to provide support. When I arrived, I didn’t know what to do. I was working on an island in India, with parents and families who had lost their children. In an effort to get their kids off the island, they tied a rope from the island to the mainland and put their children on a boat. As the children pulled along the rope to get to the other side, a huge wave came and wiped them out. They all died.

It was my job to support the mothers of all these children; I have never experienced such pure grief. Many of these mothers had lost three, five, maybe seven, kids at once. I was not prepared for this amount of grief and shock. Even though I was in a mode of fear, I had to move beyond that fear and start to work with everybody. What I’m seeing during this pandemic is people going into this same mode of fear and grief.

If we can increase our tolerance for being on the edge of our emotions, then we will be able to act in a collaborative mode instead of turning and fighting against each other.

transformation during crisis
Now is the time to be triggered. We need to take advantage of this moment of being emotionally challenged. #covid19 #pandemic #crisis #uncertainty #leadership #emotions Click To Tweet

2. Bring everyone along to build capacity for collaboration

It’s one thing to be threatened by something in your home or in your job – these types of threats trigger individual fear. But when you talk about a pandemic, it’s about collective fear. This threat turns everybody’s dials a little bit off, so everybody is on high alert and unable to respond in a reasonable way.

It is, therefore, important for leaders to be able to empathize on a larger scale and include everyone on this tough emotional journey. I see many leaders who are in denial, who think they have some sort of omnipotence. These types of leaders tend to overlook their people – especially the ones who are more vulnerable – and what happens is he can move forward but the others are going to be left behind. If a leader doesn’t empathize with others, and instead follows his sense of omnipotence, he’s going to have a very narrow point of view.

This is why we must challenge ourselves emotionally, as I mentioned earlier. As soon as we start to go over our threshold, we start feeling discomfort. As these levels go up, so does the tendency to turn against each other because we want to save our own skin.

But, this is the part where we need to create collaboration by cultivating curiosity and openness with each other. This is not the time to be a so-called “charismatic leader.” Instead, it’s important for leaders to be open, real, and authentic from the beginning, so as soon as she needs help, her people are ready to help her. If you never show vulnerability as a leader, it’ll be really hard for you to get collaboration in these situations.

The important word here is inclusion. As soon as you feel like you’re excluding someone, you need to work on your empathy.

transformation during crisis
Now is the time when we need to create collaboration by cultivating curiosity and openness with each other. #collaboration #pandemic #covid19 #leadership #curiosity #vulnerability #emotions Click To Tweet

3. Play in the sandbox

I specialize in dealing with child trauma and the inherent ability of a child’s body to recover from trauma impact. In my work, I have been able to observe the incredible abilities of children to play, to forgive, and to live in the moment.

The first thing adults can learn from children is that inner drive to play – and to make serious matters playful. Always bring things back to the sandbox. Returning to the sandbox is a sign of resilience because you are starting a new cycle. Remove the ego and allow things to emerge in the playful setting you’ve created.

Forgiveness is another skill we can learn from children. When kids experience conflict, they firmly declare that they will not talk to each other forever! Look at them just 10 minutes later, however, and they’re playing with each other again. They’ve set conditions: “You can play here if you do X.” Children have a wonderful capacity of flow through emotion and renewal. So, the next time you find yourself in conflict with someone else, take a page from your childrens’ playbook: Practice forgiveness and make concessions without bringing your ego forward.

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A few months ago, my partner and I welcomed our first child into the world. Having a kid in the middle of a pandemic has helped me focus on the present. I ask myself: How can I be in the urgency of this moment and at the same time look at the mid- and long-term future? A good leader can live in the moment or they can focus on the future. A great leader can be present in the urgent moment, and remain reflective and forward-looking – because that’s where the novelty comes.

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