As stories of the Coronavirus began to take over the news cycle, many here in the United States believed that this was a problem, albeit a bad one, that would never make its way here. We were interested but did not begin to take it seriously until the first cases of the virus were reported in our cities. Even then, based on past health crisis’, most of us thought this would be handled like a bad flu season. We would need to be careful, but life would go on as normal. Even as early signs of quarantines and government regulations on person-to-person interaction were seen, they were viewed as little more than an annoyance.

Then something happened that is unprecedented in the history of our country (and to be debated for many years); the government told businesses to close and families to stay in their homes. People and jobs were divided into “essential” and “non-essential” and life as we have always known it immediately changed. To be clear, there have been pandemics, national emergencies, and local catastrophes throughout our history, but none that caused the federal government to touch the life of every person in the country. This was so unusual, in fact, that for a while we did not exactly know what to do. In fact, particularly for business owners and those that rely on person to person communication for their livelihood, there were a few days of panic! There was an immediate reaction to what had been imposed that sounded something like this: “I cannot survive under these regulations. If things do not change soon, I am not going to make it.”

And clearly many have been adversely and in some cases irreversibly impacted. For many small business owners and others whose livelihoods have been impacted, life may never be exactly the same. There is still much anger and frustration and conversations about government overreach into the private sector will continue well after this crisis has ended. But in spite of it all, one thing has become very clear: those who survive in the face of seemingly insurmountable circumstances are those who take a moment to adjust to the new set of circumstances and then take steps to deal with them.

And this takes us to our final “Leadership Lessons from a Global Pandemic”:

Lesson #5- Leaders Improvise and Innovate

I could write a whole series of posts on how businesses and individuals have learned to improvise and innovate during this time but what this has illustrated so clearly is the FACT that leaders deal with realities and then figure out how to move forward in spite of or BECAUSE OF those realities. Those who will fail during this time will not do so because of government overreach; they will fail because they were ill-prepared for a crisis (see yesterday’s post) and are either unwilling or unable to adapt to a changing reality. This may be the most important lesson of all. We cannot control the world around us even though we influence as much as possible (see leadership lesson #1), but we SURVIVE and THRIVE and LEAD others forward because we know how to pivot when others get stuck in what was or relegate themselves to cursing the “unfairness” of it all.

Perhaps in all of this, you have been stuck. You have fallen into the role of accuser looking for someone to blame instead of leading yourself and others forward. No one is suggesting that this is easy, in fact, it may be the most difficult thing a person can do. But it all begins with a decision. Robert Luis said:

“We all need to reject passivity, accept responsibility, and lead courageously.”

Our world needs this more than ever right now. To those that have, against all odds, moved forward at a moment in time unlike any our country has experienced, thank you for showing us the way. To those still waiting, it is time to get up, move forward, and take others with you!