“Generous leaders are servant leaders. They always come with open hands and an open heart.”Farshad Asl
I have, on occasion, identified a broad personal theme for the year ahead. I didn’t have a theme for 2019 – maybe, on reflection, I should have identified one.
Over the year I have observed, both from my own behaviour and that of others, an increasing tendency to face crises with closed fists. Whether that’s climate emergencies, racism, discrimination, or deliberately brutal policies and political rhetoric – our instinct is to brace for the fight. No retreat, no surrender.1
Closed fists is also the posture of those we would seek to change. Those who refuse to allow their ideologies to be prised from their hands while the world around them burns.
Closed fists may result in a short-term win or a sense of satisfaction and vindication – but it mostly leads to lines of division (‘us and them’) over which we hurl abuse and dehumanise each other. Closed fists bring greater disparity and marginalisation, and less justice. Closed fists are hurting good people and communities.
This approach is not working.
Closed fists are hurting me. A closed fist approach is damaging to my mental health, well-being, sense of self and my capacity to reason and perceive a way forward through the challenges we face.
Closed fists do little to unify and everything to divide. Closed fists threaten our collective future.
It’s why I’m declaring 2020 as my year of hands open.
Hands open is a posture of humility. With hands open we can only hold things for a time – both wonderful and painful. It is difficult to hold weapons or grudges with hands open. Equally it is difficult to restrain beauty, but we are open to receive it.
The risk and reward of hands open is vulnerability.
Hands open lowers our defences.
Hands open is embracing, welcoming and inclusive.
Hands open recognises our shared humanity.
Hands open requires us to listen not only to craft a response but with the intent of trying to understand.
Hands open requires us to make room for each other and to embrace difference.
Hands open enables us to take people on the journey.
This is not to suggest that there is never a time to fight. The time to fight is when the threat is so imminent that lives will be lost. We have witnessed and experienced many occasions for closed fists in 2019. The time for closed fists is when the fire is threatening to burn out of control. But closed fists won’t address or prevent the circumstances which lead to fires starting.
When we approach a problem with hands open solutions are found and people respond to the possibility of change.
So what might this mean in practice? How will hands open translate in my daily life, in what I do and achieve? What will be the outcome and the impact? What will I do differently, more or less of?
The journey continues… What might 2020 hold for you and how will you seek to approach it?