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Pulling Urgency Closer

A Much-Needed Leadership Capacity for Our Future

Genii Earth is preparing to speak and moderate sessions in December at COP 28, the annual United Nations gathering on Climate. This year will mark the first “Global Stocktake,” a comprehensive assessment of progress since adopting the Paris Agreement. As the year begins to wind down, it also provides us all with moments to take stock of our own leadership.

COP is where nearly 200 national representatives meet to assess progress and negotiate the terms of global climate agreements. Tens of thousands gather to influence, network, and make sense of the proceedings.

COP is a place where the urgency of the global meta-crisis is brought into stark view with real numbers and real stories. It’s also where thousands of different perspectives on what is most urgent intermingle, clash, spark, and evolve within the space of a few city blocks over a two-week period.

For some at COP, the direct impacts of climate change are already causing suffering for the people they care about the most. Many of these people have the least resources to influence our collective future.

As you take stock of your own areas of greatest urgency, how might they be connected to the upcoming conversations at COP 28? Here’s a useful way of exploring that question:

To borrow from the Stoics, we all live inside concentric circles of concern. We and those we most care about are in the center circles, and our villages, local ecosystems, cities, provinces, etc., radiate out from there until you reach all of life on this planet. Each of us would draw our map of concentric circles a little differently, but the general geometry is the same.

As humans, we have evolved to pay attention to the urgencies inside our closest circles of concern—the closest frames of time, the closest physical realities, the people closest to us, etc.

But what happens when a “storm” is brewing beyond our sight lines, when the causes of near-certain widespread suffering are at work several circles out from us, and when the cost of not addressing this storm urgently in every domain of our work and lives puts the viability of our collective future at risk?

We at Genii Earth assert that this question points to an essential leadership capacity for our time, in every profession and industry: Pulling Urgency Closer.

Imagine if you could throw a long rope out to one of the outer circles of your world and pull that circle much closer to you, so you could more directly experience its realities—allowing you to lead in the moment with a wider and wiser sense of urgency. Pulling Urgency Closer is a close cousin to visionary leadership. Both require the capacity to stand in your present moment with your closest people while at the same time feeling a connection to the future—and offering a space to those around you, a clearing in which the future can be experienced.

Here are a few practices to help you build this capacity:

  • Allow your heart to be broken by those for whom these earth-sized challenges are already impacting their inner circles. Seek out their stories. Hear their voices. Know them in your heart as fellow humans.
  • Listen to the far-sighted ones who speak with credible clarity about the wider urgencies.
  • Practice shrinking time, envisioning yourself and your inner circles in the actual experience of life as it will be if we don’t cause fundamental shifts now.
  • Seek conversation and collaboration with those who are also stepping up to the challenge of re-imagining fundamental ways we structure our lives.

I’ve found that these practices thin out the borders between circles and increase people’s sense of a continuous, living connection to what is happening “out there.”

So, what will you carry as most urgent into 2024? How will you lead for our future in a way that honors the urgencies and the possibilities of your whole circle?

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