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Building The Bridge As You Walk On It

Written by: Linda Watkins, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


In 2004, Robert E. Quinn, Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan and author of 18 books on leadership, organization and change, published a leadership book entitled Building the Bridge s You Walk on It. I can’t think of a more apropos concept and expression for our experience of trying to get through and out of Covid.

Every day, we walk through uncertainty and fundamental change in our organizational systems, and it becomes clearer that we human beings are simply not prepared for any truly disruptive change, certainly not a world-wide pandemic. Additionally, our concept of freedom is challenged by how closely we are interconnected in our families, communities and world. We fight fiercely against anything that requires all of us to do.

Yet, we all live on one planet, in villages, towns and cities. And we all face uncertainty, as individuals or collectively. It may be about something small like when our local grocery store will start carrying our favorite soap or cut of meat again. Or perhaps we are wondering whether we will soon be back in the office, or out of a job. There is an awareness that our home could be lost to fire, water or severe weather exacerbated by climate change. We may feel helpless, frustrated, angry, sad and myriad other emotions.

So, we go forward with confusing choices and a certain fatalism and acceptance.

What do we do? What can we build from here? What bridge should we build as we walk on it?

All we know with certainty is that we will need to change.

Each and every one of us will have to change to survive. We will need to recognize and accept our common humanity. To be more responsible and responsive leaders. To work together in organizational systems that foster creativity and innovation. To be accountable, and accept responsibility where necessary. We will need to fully embrace the fact that our towns, cities, governments and organizations are human endeavors and must include all humans.

We will need technology to dig us out of the holes we have fallen into. Technology to modernize transportation, supply chains, medicine and medical care, data management for decision-making, and all the pieces needed to save our planet.

Tackling this future will require taking care of ourselves. Recharging when necessary to become more healthy, aware and authentic. Learning new skills and developing new capabilities. Even transforming ourselves as individuals. Each of us knows deep down inside that some things must change. We know when we’ve been slacking. And yes, change can be hard!

The big question is how to begin to change

Our first task is to truly accept where we are. What we know and what we don’t. I am reminded of Greensburg, Kansas, the town that was destroyed by a tornado in 2007 and totally rebuilt as a green town by the residents. Building codes were changed, and all buildings constructed since 2007 can withstand severe weather. The town is also totally powered by renewable energy.

We know that when people work together, we can do amazing things. For example, science has made great progress in understanding the human brain and how we learn best and fastest. We have enough research to know how to have better schools and make better use of our resources. What we have been lacking is the will to act on that information.

Greensburg accepted its reality and mustered the will to learn and do what it needed to do.

Our second task, then, is to start with what we do know – everything mentioned above and take the first step on that bridge and begin to walk on it. What do you know deep down that you need to do? I’m not talking about taking wild risks, but rather about choosing a new direction to move in, and figuring out what kind of bridge you’ll need to get there.

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Linda Watkins, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Linda Watkins PhD is an executive and leadership coach with decades of experience helping leaders achieve personal and professional growth, including in new, creative and future-oriented areas. She helps clients embody their leadership and become authentic, grounded and future-ready. Many find her work transformational. Linda's passion for helping leaders thrive by developing new skills and capabilities has only grown as the world has become more complex. She and her company, Leadership for Today, are strong advocates for women and have been designing events that empower women for over 30 years.



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