I’ve been ‘escaping’ recently by listening to the BBC podcast: 13 minutes to the moon, Series 2: Apollo 13, which tells the story of the fated moon mission and the painstaking work of the scientists, engineers and astronauts who saved it. Today I finally got to Episode 7 ‘Resurrection’, which was recorded on 10th June this year. I was arrested by these words, written by Kevin Fong and Andrew Luck-Bader, and narrated by Kevin Fong, looking back on the mission and contemplating its message for us now.
“ There is so much that we might learn… even today, perhaps especially today. In the face of crisis, no matter how apparently insurmountable, we must act. We must do so urgently, and decisively. We must delegate authority, defer to expertise, and understand where in the system that expertise truly lies. We must know when to lead, and when to get out of the way. We must know when to follow, but learn when to take full ownership of the tasks that fall to us. We must act together across whatever distance, so that the whole becomes far greater than the sum of the parts. And we must never, ever, give up, no matter how impossible the future might suddenly appear, because within all of that lies a kernel of hope and determination that might grow into something much more.”
Later, on my online news channel, I found a report of Dr Ashley Bloomfield, NZ Director-General of Health, talking on TVNZ about his role in the Covid-19 crisis, and the toll it took on his mental health.
“I had many mornings where, especially early in the pandemic, I would get up and think ‘gosh can I really do this?’
“You know; I wish this wasn’t happening. And that’s normal. It’s normal to have self-doubt. And I found in the first two or three weeks it was just so big and so present in my mind the whole time I was even dreaming it.
“It was the first time ever this has happened to me and I really had to stop and say ‘actually, I’ve got to be really aware of when I’m becoming stressed and anxious’. And I had to make a conscious decision ‘right, I’ve done all my training, all I can do is get up each day and just play what’s in front of me’.
“Keep being myself, talk to people around me, and get good advice. It was a critical turning point for me – right, here’s how we go forward with this.
The daily media stand-ups began to take a toll, Bloomfield said, and made him increasingly “tired and anxious”.
“It was the first time in my career where I had to be really in tune with myself and go – ‘OK here is something that is happening, and I have to take active steps to [manage it]’. So that’s been a huge learning for me.”
Both of these accounts echo some of the thoughts of our school leaders, which you can read in this newsletter. They also underline and illustrate some of the leadership issues which have been played out across the world.
Food for thought as we continue to lead in unknown territory.
Kia kaha, Ann