Pandemics are Crisis Situations
Crises can be regarded as the nursery of leadership in a way. They have both created new leaders and have also tested existing leaders, often resulting in the filtering out of those in power who have failed to act efficiently. We will likely have to endure these crises for years and eerily the pandemic could have already caused damages that may continue in perpetuity. Permanent crises force leadership to incorporate special virtues. Therefore, it becomes necessary to define a different type of leadership: “strategic crisis leadership”.
A crisis is any event that is, or expected to lead to, an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community, or whole society. Crisis can create negative changes in national security and economic stability, as well as political, societal, or environmental affairs. The require comprehensive strategies in response. Unexpected arrival, volatility, and legitimate threats to normalcy represent three primary characteristics that differentiate recurrent and expected issues from full blown crises.
The United States’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been anything but strategic. Reactions to a worldwide pandemic require idealized influences and inspirational motivation. Instead our country’s response has been defensive and rife with half-truths. At a time that required the moral values of; honesty, loyalty, equality, justice and human dignity, the “greatest” country in the world was treated to comedic press conferences from the Oval Office. Effective crisis leadership comes down to the leader’s response to the human needs, emotions, and behaviors caused by the calamity. Instead of resorting to prepared catchphrases and sound bites, the facts must be thoroughly investigated and truthfully disseminated.
Crisis situations are not new to this country. In past, this country’s leaders have designed and executed our responses to crisis situations. Therein lies the learning opportunities from our current situation. Experience prevails in times of peril. This implies that leaders have demonstrated and documented experience in similar situations while also showing the ability to surround themselves with diverse, competent professionals. Experience provides leaders with a framework that serves as a reference point for understanding how to respond to emergencies.
In dire situations that disrupt normal activities people are looking for a sense of comfort. Leaders effective at crisis management take full responsibility for the situation. President Harry S Truman coined the phrase, “The buck stops here”. Effective leaders first and foremost own the problem. They then create a compelling vision and a call to action that the entire country rallies behind. Effective, strategic leaders then amass a group of diverse and thoughtful comrades in order to develop a unified plan that all followers adhere to. During turbulent times affected persons become concerned about how the crisis will impact them and their loved ones. These individuals look for leaders with a plan who demonstrate empathy. Instead in the United States we have witnessed the modern-day version of Abbott & Costello’s Who's on First!
Strategic crisis leadership requires a unified solution that incorporates global values! The handling of the coronavirus in the United States has unequivocally illuminated these two points.
Who is on First?