Confession time. I typically try to use one or two word titles. I really struggled with the title of this post. I feared that if I called it what it was, people would pass it right on by and never give it a second look. I would have completely understood too. We are all tired of talking about the topic, hearing about the topic, and just tired of the topic in general. You guessed it, COVID…Nineteen. As tired as we are of it, as challenging as it has been, if we sit back and evaluate, there are some really solid leadership lessons we can all learn from this crazy experience. Here are a four of mine that will impact how I lead moving forward:
People Are Unique
One the greatest lessons I will take away from COVID-19 is that every person is unique. Biologically, we know this to be true. We are all unique based on our DNA. It cannot be duplicated. No one is biologically wired like we are.
Our lives can wire us uniquely through our experiences too. Circumstances contribute to our experiences. In regards to COVID-19, our vantage point is or was based on our circumstances. Your level of concern with the virus may have been rooted in having a medically fragile parent, a child with an autoimmune disorder, or your own health challenges. For others, your circumstances may be different. You are young, your family is healthy. The virus does not create concern for you. I have also seen people evolve from one end of the spectrum to the other when their circumstances changed. I have watched people who would not leave their house in the beginning, evolve to the opposite extreme because they may not have been directly impacted by the virus. I know people that started off as conspiracy theorists fight for their life in ICU or lose a loved one.
The lesson I learned in dealing with our community and team through this experience was that everyone had a different vantage point they saw these circumstances from. Each person saw through a different set of lenses. Their recipe of concern had a little bit of this and a dash of that. Each person handled this experience uniquely different, because our circumstances are unique. Going forward in my leadership journey, I want this to be my starting point with every person I interact with. The person in front of me is unique.
Ugly Is Unnecessary
Masks, no masks. Vaccine, no vaccine. Shut down, reopen. Republican, Democrat. While we have seen the best of people in these times like we explored in the post Angels, we have seen the worst too. I can attest, I have had a day or two or maybe three when I was not at my best. We have all been there. If not, this is probably not the Blog for you! You are a leader in your local community, it happens. It is okay. Here is the thing though, nothing justifies being ugly to another human being. If we do cross that line then own it, apologize, and make it right.
Social media has exacerbated this. Do not believe so? Go to any social media platform, follow an elected official, school superintendent, public health official, or any executive leader that must make tough decisions impacting our daily lives. Regardless of where they stand on the issue, read the comments. People can be ugly and downright hateful. One thing that we can do is to look at these people through a lens of grace. There is something behind the ugliness. It could be something as simple as a bad moment to a bad day to a tough life. I want to have this perspective when people are ugly to me as hard as it may be.
People will remember how you led through this crisis, guaranteed. Were profits, projects, and production your priorities or were people the priority? Did the numbers on the spreadsheet guide your decision making or did the faces of those you lead? In his book Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek (Who is a really thought provoking dude) spends some time on the concept of abstraction. He writes, “At some point, the numbers lose their connection to the people and become just numbers, void of meaning.” Later in the book he states, “When we divorce ourselves from humanity through numerical abstraction, we are…capable of inhuman behavior.”
Let us simplify things. You can get projects done, make profits, and be productive as an organization with people. You cannot get projects done, make profits, or be productive without people. People are the priority.
Now, does that mean someone who had to lay off or eliminate positions led wrong? Absolutely not. I have a good friend that is a quality leader. He had to make a lot of tough decisions, ones I would not want to make. He chose to lay people off because they could provide better for their families on unemployment than if he cut their hours back. He also met with each of those employees face to face to tell them the news. As his organization rebounds, the people will return, and they will remember that they mattered.
We Are Resilient
We need a vaccine, but we also need a heavy dose of something else, optimism. We need a shot of it in both arms, the thigh, and heck the buttox too. Yes, I said buttox. I am choosing to believe that with each vaccine administered combined with the amount of people who have developed immunity through contracting the virus, we are nearing the finish line. Granted, I am by no means an epidemiologist, but this will end.
This will always stick with me in our community’s response to COVID-19. When the virus first hit, our Chief of Police Wayne Dennard had the message, “this too shall pass” put on all of our electronic messaging signs in the city. It has to. It will. We will bounce back. Take it to the bank. We are resilient as individuals. We are resilient as a nation. We are especially resilient as communities.
Across this great country, leaders in local communities used their influence to better others and the world they live in throughout the pandemic. You led your teams well. The students, the players, the employees, the members, the congregation, they were the priority. Those seeds you sowed will provide a bountiful harvest later. Just watch.
Ordinary To Extraordinary Intersection
Take the time to intentionally reflect on these questions. How did you lead through COVID-19? Did you recognize people are unique? Were you ugly to someone? Were people your priority? Did they matter?