The Coronavirus Shock: A Time for Leaders to Lead

by Frank L. Williams

A month ago we were starting to hear about Coronavirus, but I doubt if any of us could have imagined the impact the spread of COVID-19 has had on our communities, our nation, our world and, yes, our businesses. While all citizens are now navigating a different world than the one we knew at the end of 2019, those of us who lead businesses and organizations are facing a whole different set of unfamiliar challenges.

How to Approach COVID-19
Some are completely disregarding COVID-19 as a non-issue. Others are so panicked they are willing to instigate a fistfight over a pack of toilet paper. The correct approach lies in the middle.

Prepare, Don’t Panic
Here is my view: This is a newly discovered virus. Based on what our health professionals tell me, COVID-19 seems to spread at a faster rate than the flu, and it has a higher mortality rate than the flu. There is currently no known cure or vaccine. Preparation and precautions are absolutely warranted. This is a time to prepare, not panic.

A Time for Leaders to Lead
For those of us in leadership roles, this is a time to lead. We have to model the way, and we must do so with a level head. If leaders freak out and lose their cool, their followers will do the same (and then some).

Flattening the Curve
The precautions we’ve seen taken over the past week are intended to “flatten the curve.” In other words, they are intended to reduce the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading in hope that it will not overwhelm our healthcare system. If it had spread at the highest possible rate, America could have been faced with a situation in which we had more patients in need of hospital beds than available beds.

Considering Others
I am not in the demographic considered to be most vulnerable to COVID-19. However, when I think of this virus, I don’t think of myself. I think of my father and my wife’s grandfather, who celebrated their 88th and 95th birthdays last week, respectively. Our planned combined birthday lunch for them was a casualty of COVID-19, and canceling it was the right thing to do. I don’t want to take a chance on unknowingly exposing either of them — or any of the other people in the assisted living facility where my wife’s grandfather resides — to this virus.

The situation that has unfolded in the past two weeks is unprecedented in my lifetime. Unfortunately, COVID-19 will claim some lives. When we hear about the death toll, let us remember that every number reflects is a PERSON whose passing will be mourned by their loved ones. This isn’t just about numbers; it’s about people.

The economic impacts of this situation will be far-reaching. I personally know business owners who are already feeling the effects of lost business. Some businesses may be forced to close. Some people may be out of work. Times may be tough for a while, but that doesn’t have to be permanent.

This Too Shall Pass
While the current COVID-19 situation is unprecedented and rapidly evolving, and while its long-term impacts are still unknown, I have faith that we will come back even stronger than we were before the term “coronavirus” became a household word. America is full of smart, determined people who care about their communities and want to do the right thing. We the People will come through this.

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Frank L. Williams

Frank is the founder and president of Pioneer Strategies.