At the time that I decided to initiate this endeavour, COVID-19 had not yet become the global pandemic it is today. Today, we recognize COVID-19 as a global liability, forcing us to change the way we work and interact with one another for the foreseeable future.
Described as a mild virus, it has yet managed to highlight the precariousness of and inadequacies within the systems we have built and the ways we have continued to operate ignoring the faults in those systems. Ignoring the people who are essential to our way of life and who are now risking their lives to sustain us through this crisis, while paying them lip service.
Our economies and ways of being have struggled to adapt, failing abysmally at flexibility when asked to bend just a little bit in the face of a predictable scenario.
It has also made it apparent how strongly we depend on leadership to be trustworthy and reliable when it comes to our welfare and I have become more confident that the mission of Accountable Leadership is more important than I ever imagined.
President Donald Trump, in his determination to return to business-as-usual, said, “Our economy was not built for this.” While his intention is short-sighted, his observation is frighteningly apt.
I have discussed in another post, how the short-sighted nature of toxic leadership is one that thrives on chaos and urgency, while simultaneously leaving the least able among us to shoulder the greatest burden, both in managing the chaos and in doing the right thing for themselves and other people.
It is the kind of leadership that believes that if it is not already a catastrophe, it’s not a problem to be solved. Issues are left to fester and the people they affect are left without options.
The economy was not designed for this. It was not designed to be resilient. It was not designed to strengthen the least powerful. But the truth is these vulnerabilities were visible long before a pandemic came along.
On the crisis
Effective leadership does not make it difficult for people to do the right thing. It does not make it so that some people would rather die than stay home. They would rather go to work every day than trust the government to ensure their survival.
Effective leadership does not provide its people with impossible dilemmas—paying the bills, or living, and say this is the best we can do. This is the way it is. The economy or your lives.
The economy depends on living people. It depends on thriving people. The people are simultaneously the market and the labour force. And if the people are not able to be resilient, are not able or enabled to bend, neither can the thing that depends on their ability to be resilient.
That our economies are not designed for this is a failure of leadership, not a reflection of what is possible.
The world cannot afford to have leadership that considers the economy and the people as separate entities, or that thinks their best interests are at odds.
We need leaders who seek to solve issues from the perspective that two seemingly conflicting issues can be resolved in a mutualistic manner. Leadership that, while it acknowledges the grey qualities of the situations before us, does not seek to pit black qualities against white qualities, but seeks to map out a solid path through the grey. Leadership that operates as a light in the fog.
This goes beyond matters of the economy and COVID-19, but to other contrived dichotomies in business and in politics that serve only to unnecessarily divide the people against themselves. The result of this kind of thinking is that when crises hit, the solution appears quite “easily” to be that one must be sacrificed to save the other because there is no other way.
The truth is that our leadership fails to strategize for another way to be. It also results in a system that works for some of the people and not all of the people (or as many as can be brought along).
We need leaders who see a system for all its parts and can consider them simultaneously, giving each of their contributions the deserved respect; leaders who are able to act now for the short-term and plan for the long-term, who think strategically, and with nuance; leaders who possess the capacity to chart a middle path between supposedly conflicting ideals and know how not to present them as irreconcilable.
There is a lot about our future that requires careful navigation and decision-making. It’s not enough to say we need a different kind of leadership going forward. We need to improve our own capabilities to choose better and develop a means to hold our leaders to specific standards and outcomes. To raise the standards higher than they have been for all this time.