When Leaders are Stupid: Gov. Cuomo of NY

By | March 22, 2020

[March 22, 2020]  When disasters strike, there is often confusion, distorted information, and sometimes panic.  Stupidity is also one of the inevitable results.  Friday morning, I watched New York Gov. Cuomo lay out his plan – a good plan –  to slow the spread of the Coronavirus in his state.  Most of what he said made sense, but some of it was profoundly stupid.

“I want to be able to say to the people of New York — I did everything we could do,” Cuomo said. “And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.” – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo1

I would have hoped that Gov. Cuomo had been a little more self-aware, or at least one of his advisers had stepped in to intervene.  When a leader’s decisions affect the lives of millions of people, everything you do or don’t do has enormous consequences.  Gov. Cuomo’s decision to shut down non-essential businesses in his state and force people into self-isolation and his explanation why, will cost the lives of many.

There is robust social science that links business downturns to suicide, drug addictions, and other social maladies.

“Mr. Tony Giuliano, [policy manager for the Mental Health Foundation Scotland] who has been in self-isolation himself after returning from visiting family in Italy, said: ‘The mental health implications are huge, and unfortunately they are being a bit side-stepped.’” – from the London Times2

The real question here is, “What are non-essential businesses?”  Every leader should ask themselves what the criteria for “essential” are in this case.

“I work in the trucking industry. We have been given an Hours of Service waiver for ‘essential’ deliveries, but no-one will tell us what that means. Food? Clothing? Paper Products? Fuel? Ice Cream? No-one knows, and no-one wants to be on the record giving a straight answer.” – unknown trucker

One reader harked back to his days in the military.  When he saw similar behavior, soldiers referred to this as an “MSU moment” (making shi* up).  Decision-making is not always easy.  Explaining your decision is also not easy but it is also not trivial.  Take great care to insure unintended consequences don’t overcome thoughtful decisions.

At least the cast of Saturday Night Live is still working.


  1. https://cheddar.com/media/new-york-governor-cuomo-tells-all-non-essential-workers-to-stay-home
  2. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/scotland/self-isolation-raises-serious-concerns-for-mental-health-ddgb6cvnd
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “When Leaders are Stupid: Gov. Cuomo of NY

  1. Dennis Mathes

    I think Gov Cuomo did some very good things with his plan. A bit heavy handed on the government side but him giving this stupid excuse was just plain ignorant. He should have explained himself better.

    1. Wesley Brown

      You’re right. His plan was good, his explanation was okay, his reasoning with this quote was “stupid.”

  2. KenFBrown

    New Jersey (another neo-Marxist state) Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday signed an executive order that would require the state’s 9 million residents to “effectively stay at home,” canceling all gatherings, weddings, parties, etc. and
    closing additional businesses. Guess that I will have to stop my partying (huh?). Another dictator wannabe.

  3. Max Foster

    Below Tom said it best, saving “ONLY” one life. That kind of reasoning is what gets leaders into trouble. Plus this is just another tag line many people out of habit just throw out there because they believe it makes sense. Well, it doesn’t make sense. When a leader does 100 great things, they can be torn down by “one aw shit” moment. Gov. Cuomo had his aw shit moment.

    1. Wendy Holmes

      Watch what you say. That should be tapped to their foreheads.

  4. Lady Hawk

    Good points in today’s leadership article, Gen. Satterfield. Thank you.

  5. Linux Man

    I’m just one of those deplorables from the mid-west and thus know nothing at all. I need the gov’ment to tell me what to do and I look forward to getting free cash for voting for them gov’ment types. Don’t you just love it?

    1. Eva Easterbrook

      😊😊😊😊 You get four smiley faces for your comment. Thanks for making my day.

  6. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    I’m leaving my house no matter what the dumb governor of New York says. If I have to do something important, then I will do it.

  7. Willie Shrumburger

    Okay Gov. Cuomo, let’s keep the ignorant stuff to a minimum. Most of us can figure this out on our own. Best to keep the NY state govt out of our lives for the moment.

  8. Ronny Fisher

    “Gov. Cuomo Announces Stay-At-Home Order: “New York State On PAUSE””
    On Friday morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that in order to shut the “valve” of new COVID-19 cases that threaten to overwhelm the state’s health care system, he is placing New York State on “PAUSE,” an acronym that intends to keep as many New Yorkers as possible in their homes and away from each other.

    1. Georgie B.

      Generally a good idea. But what constitutes essential services (that he did not define)?

    2. Kenny Foster

      Only solitary exercise is permissible, the governor said. I guess that means my dog has to pee and poop in my house.

      1. Mikka Solarno

        Thanks Kenny for making our point with humor. This is not a perfect solution and neither is it explained in any reasonable detail. The stupid reporters didn’t ask important questions like WHO gets to make the decisions on what is important to stop doing and what must be kept open.

  9. JT Patterson

    I don’t expect much out of a state governor. But overall, except for his criticism of President Trump, Gov. Cuomo has not done a bad job. Oh yes, his explanation was very very very STUPID. I do think we know what he meant but this is not time for exaggeration or implications. Just say the reason Gov Cuomo.

    1. Crazy Dude

      No surprises here. Move along. Another leftist state governor. Move along. Nothing to see. Keep your hands where I can see them. 👍👍/sarc

  10. Tom Bushmaster

    If ONLY he just saves one life. Wow, I’ve heard this before and it is such an inane reason. For a senior leader to use this excuse (which is an obvious lie) it makes all this seem trivial.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      We are now about one week into Pres Trumps 15-day period of self-isolation, taking great care not to spread the virus because now is a critical time. What happens afterwards? Tom, you are spot on with this comment but let’s also take into account that what Gov. Cuomo has laid out is not so bad. His reasoning for it is, quite frankly, totally irresponsible.

      1. Eric Coda

        Yusaf, and you’re from Texas. Heh! We know better of course, us New Yorkers are known for our resilience and for knowing that our politicians are narcissists. Just look, we even elected Hillary Clinton back in the day as a Senator and she wasn’t even from our state. Go figure. We are trouble folks but we still have trouble seeing a fraud for what he or she is.

    2. Harry Donner

      Good comment Tom and, naturally, you are right. In the Western world, a leader must not only show the way but also explain WHY the way must be taken.

    3. Dale Paul Fox

      So true. Remember when your parents said, “Just do it.”? Maybe that was the babysitter! Just digressing for a moment. We all know sometimes leaders screw up – the are human after all – but they should be very careful about explaining what tasks need to be done and why.

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