Trump and the rattled business leaders who are pleading with him remove some of the stringent social distancing measures have foregone any efforts to think outside the box in order to find effective ways to manage the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. They have decided to just directly think out of a coffin to jolt the economy away from ruin, the nation’s health be damned.
Choosing between life and jobs is not a choice, it’s an inhumane imposition.
As coronavirus cases continue on the rise, along with an increase in the number of deaths, American leadership threatens to hit a new low by offering Americans a new choice: life or jobs. There’s no doubt , as Fred Hiatt writes in March 24, 2020 The Washington Post Opinions A.M. digital editorial, that sustained isolation is dangerous to our nation’s economic health and that returning to normal life when the virus infection curve hasn’t even peaked is just as, or even more, dangerous.
Both scenarios are obviously unsustainable. But real (and humane) leaders don’t capitulate to wishful thinking. They bring the best minds together, in this case virtually, (and there are so many good and creative minds in America!) to look for a Third Way.
Instead, Trump is considering ditching safety measures, in defiance of public health experts not just in the U.S., but also in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in…everywhere else, and spewing magical thinking and over-optimistic statements based on anecdotal evidence and his by now proven bad gut instinct. Meanwhile,
Meanwhile, the President of the U.S.A. is failing to lead, preferring instead to sport a war-time suit to cloak his paralyzing fear that is just doesn’t fit right. Because this is no time to act and posture. It’s no time to take the stage for self-aggrandizement, media bashing and fact-free hunches.
It’s time to lead
It’s time to lead for the common good, however difficult and unpopular the necessary decisions may be.
It’s time to use briefings to provide critical information truthfully.
It’s time to break bread and join hands virtually to rally business leaders to take their part and responsibility in looking for creative solutions to an unprecedented situation.
It’s time to help unleash the creative yet realistic potential of the millions of brilliant micro and small business owners battling on the front lines of the economy.
A leader sees what can be, not just what is, and creates new roads. There are thousands of leaders stepping up across America. Businesses, both big and small, are already thinking outside the box and coming up with creative solutions to shutdowns. Broadway, symphonies, museums, restaurants, and many other employers are delivering solutions. Many others are working on them: healthy eating cooking classes, life coaching, tele-health and tele-therapy, virtual wine tasting, errand runners, safari classrooms, drive-through clinics, and many more, all around the world.
Businesses are suffering, yes. But they’re already developing practical and viable solutions. The government should be negotiating a support package for ensuring market development and consumer capacity, not capitulating to a few (big) business leaders who are rattled because they are short on creativity.
Instead, President Trump wants to look tough by loosening social distancing restrictions in defiance of public health experts, and in spite of evidence that these restrictions have proven to be the best measure to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Trump can find no better solution, despite supposedly being an experienced business developer and the best at the art of a deal, than to ditch safety. One must wonder if he’s already jumped into a coffin and can’t find a way to think himself out of it.
America needs enlightened leadership NOW!
As a leader, Trump should be thinking about the future and looking at things differently to discover potential where others see problems. As the Nigerian proverb says: In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams.
The job of a leader is to
Time management is critical. But it’s not about making sure you have time to tweet or to push aside health experts in press conferences. It’s about knowing what the “big stuff” is. This requires understanding and acting in the context in which we live and operate while thinking forward, without blinders.
Leadership is difficult, especially in times of crisis. But good leaders are life-long students. They seek to improve one’s leadership skills by learning from the successes and best practices of others. At this moment, President Trump could learn quite a bit from the timeless lessons practiced by many a Chief and his Council of Wise men and women in any given remote village in Africa (based on Paul Seger’s book Chief, 2013):
To be a “Chief”, every leader to needs someone to lift him/her off his/her own limitations. Criticism helps you do that. In fact, in times of crisis, criticism can become a leader’s badge of honor…if he can differentiate between efficiency and effectiveness, between doing things right and doing the right things. If he can do neither, he’s in trouble.
Trump would do well to set apart some time for daily reflection on the following five African proverbs:
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