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Presence in Boston When It Mattered Most

Leadership lessons learned from the events in Boston.

What a week it was for the city of Boston. It’s hard to believe that the citizens there went from the attack at the Boston Marathon to a citywide lockdown as police hunted for the surviving suspect to the celebratory singing of Sweet Caroline with Neil Diamond himself in an afternoon game at Fenway Park all within the span of five days. When I wrote about the resilience of Bostonians last week, I had no clue just how resilient they would prove to be.

There are so many leadership lessons to be learned from the Boston experience. The medical personnel and first responders on the day of the blast were amazing. Every victim who initially survived the explosions was saved. (Read this story by Atul Gawande for example after example of mindful leadership in Boston’s hospitals.) The coordination between local, state and Federal agencies was equally impressive. Their leaders kept everyone focused on a common goal. The public officials like Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and Boston police commissioner Edward Davis were role models for leaders who need to keep people informed in a high stakes, rapidly changing situation.

There was a lot of mindful leadership in Boston last week, but what stands out for me the most was the leadership of the average citizens who tended to the victims in the moments just after the blasts. We’ve heard story after story of brave and compassionate people who provided critical first aid to the victims or simply sat or laid down with injured strangers to talk calmly with them, stroke their hair or do whatever they could to comfort them until help arrived.

Those people were fully and mindfully present with other human beings who desperately needed them to be. In many cases, their presence was literally life saving as it kept the victims from going into shock.

Fortunately, we’re not often called to be mindful and present in literal life and death situations. But, doesn’t it make you wonder how different life and work might be if each of us brought some fraction of that amount of mindful presence to every interaction we have with another person? What would it take to put down the smart phone or turn away from the computer and really tune into the other person?

There are three ways I can think of to make a start. Have the intention to be present. Take a deep breath to transition from whatever had your attention a moment ago. Make eye contact with the other person.

Where would you start? What would it take for you to follow through on that idea?

Image via SeanPavonePhoto/