All eyes are on our leaders and COVID-19 is revealing the very best and worst in leadership, and leader performances are being measured by their judgments. At the 20,000-foot level, our president and governors are being evaluated on their actions, or for that matter, inactions. At the 10,000-foot level, our nation’s mega-city mayors are similarly being evaluated on their actions, or inactions, all the while remaining in the national spotlight, some pleading daily for more federal government assistance. Then at the 1,000-foot level, it becomes much more intimate. Now we’re evaluating business owners, bosses, associates, city officials, friends and family.
At all levels, both effective and ineffectual leaders are making judgments daily that impact each of us, our families, friends and co-workers, whether today, tomorrow or in the years to come. Our eyes are watching and we’re evaluating which ones can lead, think, plan and act on our behalf through this crisis.
We pray for good judgments, but often have to settle for less. Why? Making good decisions is a learned skill, yet many of our leaders have never been trained in decision making, and eventually they become victims of their own poor judgments. During a crisis, like this once-in-a-century pandemic, uncertainty, our expectations and leaders’ decision cycles accelerate. We have a belief that our leaders will step into the crisis arena and make sound and reasoned judgments that eventually lead us through fear to blissful harmony and economic prosperity. We yearn for them to make good judgments. We want each one of them to be deciphering what they see or are being told, against what they know to be true or false, fact or fiction, churning it all in their guts, trying to digest nuances, filtering out their unabashed and inherent biases, finally coming to an opinion, rendering judgment, then leading us through harm’s way.
We don’t want their egos to get in the way of course corrections and we definitely don’t want them walking away from the arena and deferring their responsibilities to others.
The best leaders park their egos, stay in the arena engaged, continuously evaluate the conditions, and render timely, sound and reasoned judgments. Sound and reasoned judgments, just like wisdom, grow with experience based on individual and observed successes and failures. Judgments also weave in your personal virtues and values. Leaders know their judgments will result in outcomes, both positive and negative, impacting the achievement of the organizational mission, goals and subordinate objectives. In arriving at judgments, leaders must understand the risk of failure. In doing so, they use their skills to ruthlessly hunt for facts and sniff out opinions, temper, but not ignore their guts, and actively guard against their biases before coming to judgments. They incorporate predictive modeling and use techniques when they can to assess risk and avoid at all costs relying solely on their guts.
But when the facts can’t be ferreted out, predictive modeling is not timely, and opinions flourish, the leaders’ guts prevail in assessing risk and arriving at judgments. Their judgments’ soundness or reasonableness will always be questioned by those many eyes observing.
Lisa and I have commented to many of our clients and interested parties, that we’re in COVID-19 graduate school. We’re all by no choice of our own in a laboratory, experiencing the very best and the very worst in leadership. There is so much to observe, evaluate, digest, and learn from leaders who have either stepped into the COVID-19 arena and are fully engaged, or avoided it all together and are deferring responsibility. This imposed economic activity pause allows us to observe and learn, then lead, think, plan and act our way through the crisis and into what for sure will be a resounding economic rebound.
If you’re a business owner, don’t squander this time. Learn, then lead, think, plan and act. Now, let’s get after it!