[March 23, 2020] I was watching a little television yesterday, and while catching up on the news (all about the Coronavirus-COVID19), one of the announcers said that “now is the time for leadership.”1 After seeing what many young folks are doing by ignoring commonsense warnings about the pandemic, I would have added that now is the time for junior leaders to step up. For those junior leaders, here are three things they must do to be a good leader.
First, junior leaders must be able to read, write, and think. Yes, I know I’m cheating on the numbers a little here, but many of my peers and I think these are the same. If you cannot read, write, and think (all three), then you will not be able to succeed in any leadership position in any modern-technical society. Thinking is the most crucial, but our current formal educational system de-emphasizes reading, writing, and thinking. Pushing these abilities requires help; the right mentor, good teachers, and the no-nonsense friend.
Second, junior leaders should try whatever they’ve never done. An old, combat veteran told me once to “get outside your comfort zone.” He was telling me to do things that I didn’t like but had worked for others. Fear held me back on many occasions. Fear keeps most of us back from acting when we know we should act. When I joined the U.S. Army, my buddies and I did things we had never done before. The first time we jumped from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter into a river (as part of a river-crossing under enemy fire), we were frightened. We were so scared that my buddy peed his pants, but he jumped.
Third, junior leaders must take responsibility for their actions. Never make excuses, never ever. It seems natural to blame others for what fails on a mission. We like to be bystanders because it’s safe. But only by adopting responsibilities can we be a real leader. Otherwise, we will sit on the sidelines and watch the world go by us. Then, sometime in the future, when we look back on our lives, we will see a person in the stranglehold of fear and hesitation. Regrets will follow us forever.
Our current Coronavirus pandemic demands leadership. Leadership like this requires independent action, right thinking, dedicated and responsible leaders, and doing things we have never done before. There is no template for action on such a novel virus. No one can tell us what to do. Every junior leader should look upon the situation and take the authority vesting in their leadership to take action.
Apply the brainpower we are given as a gift to humanity and step beyond our fear. Only when the many junior leaders at the tip of the spear work together can we defeat the pandemic. Our national-level government can only guide us. The real work – that which will allow the fewest deaths – is at the lowest level of leadership.
- I’ve heard this expression so often, I now just ignore it. “Now is the time for leadership,” is one of those overused and abused phrases that are a catchall for “I don’t know what to do so I’ll just throw this out to make it look like I do know what I’m doing.” One of my first Army sergeants used it all the time. When I asked for more specifics, he would just tell me to manage my time better (another worthless phrase).