One of the most fascinating things to observe in the handling of the Corona Virus Pandemic, from a leadership perspective, has been the unwillingness of many involved to acknowledge that there could possibly be more than one reality to this unfolding drama. There have basically been different sides screaming at the middle:
“People are dying and keeping them alive is all that matters. If we have to shut the economy down indefinitely to keep people alive than we MUST do it!”
“We all want to stop people from dying, but the most important thing right now is to get folks back to work. The economic reality is the only one that really matters in the long-term.”
Both sides have data, history, charts, and experts to prove their point and neither seems to be afraid to call the intelligence or intentions of the other into question. Most reading this post will lean more to one of those arguments than the other and it is not my intention to say which one is correct (I lean more one way than the other as well). The point is this: It is entirely possible for BOTH sides to be right! The challenge for leaders though, is that we tend to interpret circumstances and choose a course of action believing that only one thing can be true at a time. Since we believe that reality is fixed, we must settle on that one reality and let it guide our steps forward.
Which takes us to our next “Leadership Lesson From a Global Pandemic”:
Lesson # 3: Consider ALL Realities
Even the wording of this lesson will cause some to reject it. How can there possibly be more than one reality? Again, I think that our current situation illustrates this so clearly. The “experts” have laid out a plan to either shelter in place for the rest of our lives because that is what’s best for our health, or start working tomorrow because if we do not the economy will never recover. If it is the goal of leadership to simply discover which one of those things is true then the second “reality” will be lost and long-term damage will be done. The role of the leader is not to side with one expert over another, it is to listen to and evaluate the advice of experts and then triangulate that information into a reasonable course of action. The problem with this type of leadership is that it rarely leaves either side happy, but it does move things forward when they would otherwise be stuck.
Experts only focus on their reality (the very narrow field of their expertise) but leaders must consider ALL realities. This does not mean that the expert creates conflict; what he creates is the need for leadership!
The only reason leaders are needed is because in every important situation there are several realities that must be considered. Those who disagree are not always wrong, they are just looking at the situation based on their own reality. Leaders who move homes, businesses, and countries forward when there is no clear path are the ones who can consider each side, mitigate as much damage to each as possible, know that few will be happy, and start moving.