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November 30, 2021

The Productivity Paradox is the New Normal

In July 2020, just months into what has become a multi-year pandemic, cohort 4 executive directors and MEV facilitators came together to talk about the bind that many activists, organizers and leaders found themselves in: How do we continue the work ”productively” while our communities and families are under extreme stress and crisis?

While few of us probably understood then the extent to which this would become our new normal, it is very clear now that working under multiple pandemics–COVID 19, white supremacist violence, ecological disaster–is not exceptional. It is not a question of how to handle a time-limited crisis, but how to shift our ways of working holistically such that we are capable of handling whatever new crisis or challenge arises.

There are some who have been calling for this type of leadership, and modeling it in their own lives, for quite some time. Disability justice activists have understood and named that the type of productivity that capitalism requires of us is a trap, designed to keep the most marginalized from wholeness and limiting the community connections needed to survive and thrive.

Parents have also experienced the incredible pressures of parenting when the limited social safety net that exists in the U.S.–namely schools and daycares–aren’t able to function safely. These are not new realities, just a moment that has exposed how vulnerable certain groups are, and how much a real safety net and deep community relationships are necessary for survival.

That conversation in July 2020 pointed towards these new realities and saw this moment as not a temporary state of response but a call towards a new type of leadership. This tool goes into detail about what that leadership can look like, a few highlights:

  • These moments call for an enhanced sense of purpose, adaptability and focus on intention;
  • It requires deeper collaboration, trust, relationships and community;
  • We must prioritize and tend to our people;
  • We must create space for healing, faith and prayer as tactics and tools to build a culture where we figure it out together and not dispose of each other;
  • It is possible to hold folks accountable in a way that acknowledges people’s whole selves, believes in their capabilities and sets them up to succeed;
  • Shared leadership offers the ability to hold ourselves with compassion and acknowledge limitations, as well as lead with a focus on strengths;
  • If we move from performative leadership to authentic leadership we can be thoughtful, hold what is real and use our emotions on purpose & strategically.

We invite you to again reflect on these resources as we approach two years of this new normal under the COVID-19 pandemic.  

How has your leadership and relationship to work changed in the last 18 months?

Have you found more balance between family, community and work?

What does authentic leadership look like for you?

Has your relationship with productivity changed?

Art by lizar_tistry