Mapping Effective Covid-19 Engagement: Four Responses to the Challenge
If a compelling Azure Blue vision is generated, then what do we do about it? We must not just applaud the visionary speech-giver. It is not enough to walk away, inspired to do good –-for perhaps a day or week. So-called “motivational” speakers provide a welcome respite from the daily grind, but they rarely have long term impact. As was the case with the two other leadership maps, the neurosciences offer an important clue regarding Azure Blue. Research regarding the hormonal system in the human body has pointed for many years to the important role played by adrenaline (critical in Ruby Red Leadership) in providing the energy (fuel for the fire) that is required in fighting or fleeing from the enemy. More recent neuroscience research has identified another important biological process that involves a specific hormone: oxytocin. This specific chemical brings us closer together rather than leading us to fight, flight (or freeze). Oxytocin is a “bonding” agency. It is critical to the production of love and hope in human beings. This hormone surges in women (and even in men) when a child is about to be born. It is the primary physiological ingredient which turns (to use Martin Buber’s phrase) an “I-It” relationship into an “I-Thou” relationship (Buber, 2000).
I propose that oxytocin is also critical to the sustained engagement with a compelling vision. While adrenaline may surge after a stirring (and visionary) speech, it is the bonding power of oxytocin that motivates people to build on a vision through collaboration and community. The neurosciences are complementing the findings from social psychology and political science that organizational leaders of vision must not just excite people, they must also “bond” people to the new vision. Triangulation is required for a vision to be sustained. By this I mean that it is not enough for two or more people to hope and take action together—a third element must be present if this relationship of hope and action is to be sustained. This third element is a shared vision that is linked to an animating and collective mission, set of values and compelling social purpose.
The “I-Thou” conception that I have already offered provides us with guidance in this matter. According to Martin Buber (a Jewish theologian), the “I-Thou” exists through God’s grace. God is the third element that ensures the power and continuity of Buber’s shared vision. Similarly, the Greek word “agape” refers not just to mankind’s relationship to some deity; it also relates to ways in which we treat and care for other people on behalf of our vision, mission, values and (in particular) our sense of social purpose. Now, in the 21st Century, we have several options. We need not focus on the relationship between humankind and a deity—we can focus instead, as did the Greeks, on ways in which “I-Thou” relationships are sustained and enhanced when these relationships of love (“agape”) are based on a shared higher-order vision. It is under conditions of shared love (such as when a new baby is born) that oxytocin is produced to bind people together and bind people to a society and its vision (as well as its mission, values and purposes).