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State of Emergence

By Cornelia Kausch

Things perpetually change and unfold. That’s a truism, of course, yet we are rarely conscious of it. Enter a state of emergency – say, Covid – and this perpetual unfolding becomes radically clear to us, precisely because it lacks clarity, lacks the kind of long-term strategy and planning we rely on in business and life to bequeath to us a sense of comfort. All of a sudden, we are compelled to bear witness to this unfolding, to emergence itself.

Where the veil of order and predictability is lifted, we face the terror, the chaos that human existence actually is. Especially in the early stages of the Covid crisis, we had to confront the very possibility of the Real – sickness, death, anarchy – encroaching upon the Symbolic – language, relations of governance, order – the very systems that give meaning to our life, that indeed we employ in the act of meaning-making.Yet, such a state of emergency is also an opportunity for us to become conscious once again of the always-emergent Self.

When everything is called into question, we must take stock of what we hold dear, what gives us meaning and stability even when the very notion of stability is shown to be a fallacy. What, then, anchors or emergent Self within a state of emergency? The people (and, by extension, the organisations) I have seen come out of the pandemic best are the ones who held onto their values. The ones who had a clear sense of what is important outside of themselves, perhaps even beyond themselves: their greater vision, their “Big Why”, their sense of purpose and community. At least in what I witnessed in my clients and coachees – mostly leaders – these were the people who best managed to integrate the crisis and its ramifications into their sense of who they are - and their organisations. They looked towards their community for a shared act of meaning-making. These leaders asked questions and listened, rather than defaulting to the all-familiar defence mechanism of prescriptivism and enacting authority. In the moment of crisis, they asked not: how can I lead but how can I serve.

"Yet, such a state of emergency is also an opportunity for us to become conscious once again of the always-emergent Self"

I’m reminded of Jung’s words from his seminar on Nietzsche’s Zarathrustra: “The self only exists in as much as you appear. Not that you are, but that you do the Self. The Self appears in your deeds, and deeds always mean relationships.”

Trust and relationship-building necessarily is at the core of everything we do, and everything we are. It is important that we, as coaches and facilitators, make leaders aware of this – and not just for their own sakes! After all, the state of emergency during Covid acted very much as a prism, in which a lack of clarity, paradoxically, made some things very clear indeed. I’m thinking here of the people who only superficially identified with the values of their company, or who were working under leaders who did not live up to the nice, inspiring words in their vision statements and core value presentations. They were often quick to notice that a “Bigger Why” was missing, and that their Self would not be actualised in the context of their company. That, incidentally, is perhaps one of the greatest services a leader can render to an employee: provide a space for their Self to emerge, in community, in shared meaning, with their very own.


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