What Leading Through 9-11 Taught Me About COVID-19 Leadership
As I write this, we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This significant event has brought the entire world to its knees. I remember so well where I was 19 years ago, when America was in shock on September 11, 2001, after terrorist planes flew into the World Trade Center causing its collapse. I also remember clearly what President George W. Bush said the next day, standing in the middle of the rubble. He said, “We hear you America, and the whole world will hear us. We will figure out who did this and make them pay.” A lesson I learned then and is so relevant in the midst of today’s crisis, is that great leaders in the middle of tragedy, focus on giving the people they are leading both…INSPIRATION and HOPE.
From the lessons I learned since that time, it’s clear that as leaders, we now should be putting our focus on 3 EMOTIONAL PORTALS:
- FEAR and ANXIETY: I remember years ago speaking at events and having my host walk me to my gate and visit as I waited for my plane to take me home. Now in the years after 9-11, my host tells me goodbye outside the airport security checkpoint as I get ready to wait for my turn in long TSA lines that assure the safety of passengers to their destinations. I am certain that changes will be made in the years ahead as a result of this pandemic. I know that fear and anxiety will be front and center in the hearts of people in my circle of influence in the days ahead and I need to keep that in mind as I counsel them.
- ISOLATION and LONELINESS: I remember doing ministry in New York City just days after that epic 9-11 disaster and I still know the name of the youth pastor that took me as near as he could to ground zero. We watched as they looked for the remaining bodies of victims that had been trapped in the rubble and family members in their lonely searches for lost loved ones. Crisis often makes us feel like other people don’t get us all the way as we struggle to say what we’re really feeling…which makes the isolation even worse. How much more do we feel these effects as we are quarantined to our homes during COVID-19? How many times can we share our feelings with our family members? As leaders, it is so important that we are reaching out at this time through Social Media, Video meetings and any other means we have to let people know that we are there for them.
- BOREDOM and APATHY: For at least the next 30 days, most of our states have mandated their citizens to “stay-at-home” and “shelter-in-place.” So, life as most of us know it has come to a standstill. Weddings and family reunions have been postponed. We can no longer get together in groups of more than 10 people, go out to our favorite restaurant or watch the latest movie. Our only outside activity revolves around going to buy necessities at a the nearest store armed with our mask and hand sanitizer. There’s only so much you can do…and it’s going to get boring. Boredom and Apathy are not the usual pathways to increasing excellence in any realm, let alone one’s pursuit of Jesus Christ, Character, Integrity, Grit or Hard Work. And if we’re not careful, we will find ourselves sitting down on the inside and getting just a little too casual.
As a leader, how are you doing as sources of INSPIRATION and HOPE and helping your gang battle these three emotional portals? In the years to come, you will forever tell people that you were a leader through COVID-19. We will not come through this the same. Remind yourself often of the WHY BEHIND THE WHAT. Understand in your heart, whatever your circle of influence is…now is your moment to be Jesus with skin on in their lives.