What if 2020 is Not an Anomaly?
2020 was disruptive; trends that we thought might take years to develop — like remote work, virtual learning, and unprecedented climate change — accelerated in ways we couldn’t imagine.
Leadership has struggled to keep up.
The problem isn’t change, or even exponential change. It’s the combination of perpetual, persuasive, and exponential change.
Conditions for accelerating change have been building for years. Advancements in information technology, automation, human interconnectivity, Artificial Intelligence, and the network effects among them, created a new reality where change is much more rapid, continual, and ubiquitous. — HBR
Discernment is the Leadership Quality that’s Lacking.
Discernment is smart judgment in a broader context. It’s the ability to see beyond the obvious to anticipate opportunities and threats, right and wrong, understand cause and effect, and trust ourselves at a core-level.
It’s an essential skill for effective leadership, and in the absence of effective leadership, it’s a survival skill.
Discernment is lacking when Kim K takes a private-island holiday with dozens of family members and friends to celebrate her birthday during a pandemic.
Discernment is lacking when the US government takes a haphazard approach to COVID 19.
It takes tremendous intellect to sift through it all, to understand it enough to feel confident about our decisions. We must filter it through what we know, what’s true, and what we want for the world.
Discernment helps us sort through the context to create a better future. It’s knowing when to react or let go, when to speak up or be silent, when to keep editing or when to publish, when to pursue profits or when to cut your losses and go home.
There’s no easy shortcut to mastering discernment; it comes from making mistakes, learning as we go, and shifting or expanding our perspective accordingly.
The power of discernment gives each of us the ability to detect differences, to make distinctions, to realise truth, to recognise falsehood or distortions, to know. This power is like the eye of the soul: a ‘third’ eye, some have called it.
Using this power, human beings are capable of discerning a flaw in the tiniest of diamonds; of perceiving subtle nuances in communication; of detecting emerging patterns in global economies. — Kiran Coyote
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Be curious, explore, and challenge. Study others and ask why they think what they think, how they learned what they learned, and develop a growth mindset. Make a point of engaging with diverse people and ideas and get out of your bubble.
Acknowledge that you don’t know what you don’t know. Practice reading between the lines, know who has a vested interest and what’s at stake. Look farther out, see the bigger picture, appreciate the difference between simple decision-making and discernment.
Listen to your body to detect what’s genuine and what’s misleading. Use your head to evaluate facts, logic, data, and knowledge. Use your heart to assess emotions, motivations, triggers, biases, and instincts. Use your humanity to widen your perspective, appreciate the consequences, and tap into wisdom.
The Decision Continuum
But what if 2020 is not an anomaly?
The decisions we make are not typically binary: right/wrong or good/bad. Rather, they fall along a continuum of alignment. When we access the power of discernment, we are better able to make decisions that align with our best self, core values, and highest good.
Each decision we make teaches us something useful. Over time, there’s a cumulative effect that increases our ability for discernment. — Jac McNeil