In the past few weeks, and certainly in the weeks to come, we have been inundated with information, and given insights and recommendations on how to best navigate and lead during a crisis. Given the challenges we are all experiencing in the face of Covid-19, I would like to turn focus a bit by sharing an inspiring example of servant leadership. My hope is that this can serve as a reminder that even during the darkest of days, light can shine when people step up.
Last week I posted a message on social media encouraging people to socially distance, and I received a response from a friend who is a medical professional working on the front lines of this war. I rarely use military or war analogies for business purposes because nothing we face in business compares to the sacrifices our armed forces experience while defending our freedom and livelihood. But as you will see below, this truly is a war, and we are blessed to have so many servant leaders on our side as we battle the Coronavirus. First, here was my original message:
Sharing my frustration with the continued cavalier attitude by so many U.S. citizens in denial about Covid-19. Even today, I was told by an acquaintance that their daughter was in Florida on spring break partying. If you have kids, even adult kids, please do your job and educate them, NOW. If you're uncertain about what to say because you don't want to panic them, try this:
The biggest issue here is NOT whether you will catch the bug, or even what it will do to you if you do. It is unlikely, and if you do, it probably will not kill you. The bigger issue is the stress this bug will put on our healthcare system and professionals IF it spreads aggressively because people ignore the risks. It is much more contagious than the typical flu. That is a fact, not just sensationalism by the media. The hospitals in northern Italy are breaking, and we are behaving more like Italy than China, South Korea or Japan where cases are on the decline because they took greater caution than we are currently undertaking.
Unfortunately, our society has become so accustomed to the media sensationalizing everything that some assume this is all hype (the proverbial boy who cried wolf syndrome). Ironically, the only way this turns out to be innocuous and over-hyped is IF we take it seriously and minimize the spread by practicing social distancing.
I received quite a few responses to this post, but it is this response that captured my admiration, and perfectly showcases the impact each of us has by putting “we” before “me”:
Thank you for this! In 42 years as a healthcare professional, I have never witnessed such mayhem! I work in a very busy ER on the frontline, trying to provide exceptional care, while struggling with the changes in policies and standards of care that are occurring on a daily basis. The team I work with is more than tremendous! We work in a chaotic, sometimes hostile environment. During this crisis we are constantly short-staffed.
One stressor is that we do not have ample testing supplies to test all patients. We only test under the strict guidelines of our Infection Control Department and the CDC. Try telling demanding parents who are on edge about a runny nose and cough that their child does not meet the guidelines for testing (definitely not a pleasant conversation).
We do not have enough PPE (personal protective equipment). Our security team is assigned to stand guard over our gowns, gloves and masks to prevent stealing of resources, while also trying to maintain crowd control in a very anxious waiting room. We are washing, washing, washing our hands every day, wearing our masks and safety glasses, dodging respiratory secretions and other body fluids, taking work clothes off before entering our house, and praying that whatever viral invader we met at work does not become an unwelcome guest in our house. Healthcare workers are frazzled, frustrated and fatigued! We have given up our off-days, planned vacations and most importantly time away from our families. ….BUT, we are determined to beat this pandemic!! We beg of YOU…Help us Help others! Practice Social Distancing! To kids who feel they are invincible, know this: Many of you will be infected with the virus. You may have mild to moderate symptoms, or none at all. Although the virus has been kind to those in your age group, once infected, YOU can be an unstoppable, horribly negative change agent. Please consider that a visit with your ailing Grandpa, a casual encounter with a friend who has severe asthma, or an unintended contact with a cancer patient can be fatal.
While you are out and about, the people you have unknowingly infected may be fighting for their life or for one of the last ventilators in the hospital that could save their life. …please, until the all clear is given…cancel your plans, cancel your parties, cancel your travel. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, cough into your sleeve. Stay safe. Stay inside. …Lives are depending upon YOU!
I’m confident that we will win this war because of the servant leader heroes like this. And may God bless them all. Of course, right now, we as leaders should be focusing our efforts on ensuring that our families, teams and communities are safe, and creating plans that enable our businesses to survive and eventually thrive again. Quite likely, our business and the way we do business will look different than anything we’ve imagined before. We will need the same kind of agility, resilience, empathy and ability to navigate ambiguity that my friend modeled for us.
As of last Friday, just over half of all Americans continue to think we are over-reacting to Covid-19. On behalf of my friend, all of the frontline workers and those most at risk, I urge you to share this message. Sure, there will be those who may think you’re an alarmist, but isn’t it better to err on the side of caution rather than what will happen if we continue underestimating this threat? Minimizing the extent of the damage it does to our health and our economy hinges heavily on our ability to persuade the broader population that this threat is real, now.