2.17: LeadershipNOW - Leadership in the time of COVID

Find The Outside ∙ mardi 19 mai 2020 ∙ durée : 46:26

2.17: LeadershipNOW - Leadership in the time of COVID

- Find The Outside, 19/05/2020 -

What leadership is needed now? What are we learning in community, in business and globally about leadership? Join Tim and Tuesday as they dive into these questions, and more, for episode seventeen of season two.

Together, Tim Merry and Tuesday Ryan-Hart are THE OUTSIDE—systems change and equity facilitators who bring the fresh air necessary to organize movements, organizations, and collaborators forward for progress, surfacing new mindsets for greater participation and shared impact.


  • Tim: This week on the podcast we dig into leadership - a much talked about topic in the world but very specifically leadership right now. Leadership in the time of COVID. What does it mean? What are the leadership challenges and conversations we’re facing inside ourselves and in our work. As we look out at the political landscape, the leadership landscape in the world, where are we turning for inspiration?

  • Tim: On the personal level, part of what I’ve been experiencing is the tension between the multiple experiences I’m having - this experience of horror, in a lot of ways, at what’s happening in the world and how COVID-19 is making visible the inequities that we all knew were there, let alone the shooting we had in Nova Scotia where 22 people were killed, let alone the struggle I see for parents who I love and care about in terms of caring for their kids right now. There is so much going on that’s hard to witness and sad. There has been a big piece of letting myself be sad. On the other side, there are beautiful things happening: my relationship to my kids and wife and feeling the fittest and healthiest I’ve ever felt. How can I hold both [sadness and happiness] and not let them be in contradiction to each other? That’s a lot of what my personal leadership is right now. Not swinging between but rather holding both.

  • Tues: Last week we talked about our stress behaviours and I think that is what I would bring forward in my own personal leadership and what is being called out. There is such a level of stress in the air that when we think about leadership, many of us - in any given moment - are absolutely at our best and also not at our best. My stress behaviour/response is irritability. I experience it as hard-headed, not hard-hearted. I find that uncomfortable and have a huge amount of self judgement about it. I’m really interrogating that. What brings up irritability versus sadness or defeat. Is there a flavour to when I become irritable or not. That has my attention at the moment. What this brings up for me as we talk about this leadership piece is that many people, at any given moment especially right now, are in their stress behaviours. That feels like a question of leadership - how to understand and navigate their own and how do you meet people where they are? 

  • Tues: Part of what I am interested in, or at least has my attention, is sexism / gender depression. The experience of women in this moment. Here in Ohio, there is a viral video about our Department of Health Leader, Dr. Amy Acton, everyone wants to be her. I’m curious about the difference in women responding to this pandemic and their leadership and what we are learning there. I’m also really starting to notice that the backlash is focusing on women. As women step up into their power in this pandemic, then the backlash against them seems to be so intense. This is really up for me right now.

  • Tim: One of the things that has struck me over 20+ years in this field - I would say 70% of the time, it is women who are stepping up to get the ground-breaking work done in all kinds of contexts. There has been a really significant pattern of women leveraging their positions of power to do good work in the world and to seek transformation. It struck me because when you talk about sexism becoming a default response, because it is more comfortable, what is that doing to our ability, within our countries, to have a good response?

  • Tues: If we quiet the voice of the woman who is leading one of the most aggressive, successful responses to COVID in the country all of us are hurt by that - more people get sick, more people die. There is also certainly a race and class dimension to that. If you begin to look at all of these “isms” coming up; we are hobbling ourselves in our response because these structural issues are rearing their ugly heads and we don’t have access to some of the minds, action, thinking, skill, capacity and effort of the majority of people. 

  • Tim: We are talking on a national level at this point but we are also seeing this in the teams we are working with as well. As a result, some of the bigger picture of the work is getting lost. Seeing this enables us to be more tactical in our response / more deliberate in how we design our process. This is not about just identifying gender bias but if we can build these types of analysis, then we can organize ourselves more effectively to counterbalance them. This analysis can provide for a deliberate response and ultimately for a more equitable world. 

  • Tues: When people are in their stress behaviour, when they pull back, I think these biases are more likely to come out. Less reflective, going faster, more impatience, less able to listen. When those personal pieces begin to have patterns that show bias then it’s worth us bringing them to bear. Have compassion and notice the pattern and work with the pattern. 

  • Tim: I’m finding that shaming is being given permission during COVID. Are you finding that? 

  • Tues: Yes. I have not heard direct shaming but I have seen rants on Facebook about what other people are doing. To be fair, I can feel it. When I am on the trail and cannot get 6 feet away from people, there is a sense that we have to take care of each other. When people have a sense of threat, then shaming becomes justified. I was listening to a podcast with Esther Perel, a famous relationship expert, and she said that the problem here is that we all think we have the right information. With this lack of clarity around COVID, everyone thinks their position is right. Class-wise, I am wondering if this is happening more in middle class communities?

  • Tim: I wonder if we could chat about what it has been like to lead an organization in the midst of all of this? We’ve had to pivot and redesign and not take massive risks and really change our plans and really distribute leadership to our teams. 

  • Tues: What I am holding that I want to share out is that we are trying to think of “who are we” in this crisis and give some real attention to that. We went through the purpose and principles of the company with our team to ask who we want to be, as a company, in this crisis. We are trying to be as thoughtful and transparent as we can be together and share with the team as much as possible. There has been a lot of thoughtfulness, and trying to have a lot of thoughtfulness around equity, in our leadership. I feel proud that we are trying to live by, expand, think through our principles as a company as this happens in this pivot. We are not just surviving, we are trying to figure this out as we go. 

  • Tim: What’s been interesting for me is not wanting to compromise on quality even though we are reducing cost. I feel proud that we are taking a stand for quality. We are taking time to think things through. Although we are contracting, we are simultaneously expanding. That makes it exciting to come to work that both those things are happening. 

  • Tues: COVID will be a huge period of transformation for The Outside and I will look back and be proud. 

Song: “Makhloogh” by Googoosh

Poem: “Old and Black, A Prayer” by Charlene Carruthers

I will watch my relatives

grow old. 

so old

that they remember battling twenty five tyrannical presidents

so old

that they know

paper food stamps and free land

so old

that they meet

my great grandaughters daughters best friend

so old

that they remember

that one time so I don't have to

so old

that they watch

this empire fall and never strike back

so old

that they rest and witness

us win.

Subscribe to the podcast now—in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or anywhere else you find podcasts. New episodes will be available every second Tuesday. If you’d like to get in touch with us about something you heard on the show, reach us at [email protected] 

Find the song we played in today’s show—and every song we’ve played in previous shows—on the playlist. Just search ‘Find the Outside’ on Spotify.

Duration: 46:25

Produced by: Mark Coffin @ Sound Good Studios

Theme music: Gary Blakemore

Episode cover image: source

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