- Everybody panics; that’s the fact;
- Leaders make rational decisions so panic less;
- A leader is the beacon in a stormy night, so light up the direction for your people.
As I write this blog post, the Coronavirus (a.k.a. Wuhan virus) is spreading around the globe and especially rampaging badly in China. While the virus is new and we don’t have effective medicine to cure patients at the moment, the spreading of a virus has caused panic in many countries especially those closer to China. I saw news and video footages that people stockpiled face masks, alcohol, and even toilet papers because they panicked.
This reminds me of a story about leadership that I came across some time ago.
When the Vietnam war erupted back in 1955, many people fled the region. Given the long coast line of Vietnam, fleeing Vietnam by boat became the easiest way to seek refuge outside Vietnam. However, fleeing by boat was not easy as it seemed. Boats were not guaranteed to be sea-worthy (don’t be surprised!) and weather forecasts were not readily available at that time. Now you could imagine how it could be like sitting in a leaking boat in a stormy night in an ocean. It’s not fun. Many people died in the ocean on way to freedom during Vietnam war.
The captain (a.k.a. the Boss) of the boat knew this the best. Those who survived the journey credited their survival to the Boss and other leaders in the boat who were able to calm refugees amid rough conditions. Leaders in those boats were calm and instructed passengers what to do in that situation. So, did those leaders and Boss panic? Yes they did, but not on their faces or actions.
They knew very well that if they also showed panicking in action, then there would be no hope for the whole boat; the boat would sink and everyone would die. What leaders in that situation did was to be aware of the situation, make rational judgements and take actions. Although very little could be done in the ocean, the best leaders could do was to provide psychological support to fellow passengers. Whatever religious believes worked in that situation, even belief in the leader. With this and a fair bit of luck, people survived the boat journey.
Back to the current situation of the Coronavirus pandemic. Leadership is about making rational judgements based on scientific and medical evidence. Leaders also need to spell out the action plans so people know what to do and how to fight this pandemic together. Resources are always limited, so leaders need to assure people how resources are going to be allocated with what priority.
As a leader at home, you lead your family through rough days. If you panic, then your family will panic. What matters for you as a leader at home is to ensure that you have the updated official information on the Coronavirus pandemic. You know how to protect yourself and family and have a plan forward. Be calm, while other people panic and don’t know what to do. You will ride out of the storm soon and you have the leadership to do so; you know this.
Dr. C. Richard Wu @ REEAConsulting.com
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