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Applying the Model to the COVID-19 Pandemic
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Applying the Model to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Applying the Model to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Let’s take a few minutes to consider how an understanding of and commitment to our organizational resilience model could have helped business and community leaders navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s do so by looking individually at the three stages of our model. In the anticipation stage, how do you think our business and community leaders could have employed some of the lessons you’ve learned about observation, identification, and preparation. I can think several, but let me share a really important lesson that you must keep in mind if you truly want to create a resilient organization. The model we’ve explored in great detail during this module suggests that we can create greater capacity for organizational resilience when we embrace our lessons from the past.
In the context of global pandemics, the truth is that we’ve actually had a great deal of experience to draw from, not necessarily of COVID-19 specifically, but of other similar global irrelevant virus scenarios. While many comparisons have been made with the Spanish flu of 1918, I found that it can be very difficult for some leaders to embrace the lessons of events from the distant past regardless of their relevance. Much more instructive to the COVID-19 pandemic, in my view, our lessons that we should learn from the SARS pandemic, which the world experienced between 2002 and 2004, the H1N1 swine flu pandemic that we saw in 2009, and the deadly Ebola virus that spread across West Africa between 2014 and 2016.
Each of these outbreaks helped healthcare officials around the world learn how to more effectively recognize, treat, and prevent the emergence of similar outbreaks in the future. Given the lessons that business and community leaders should have learned from history, I find it difficult to understand why so many were completely and utterly unprepared for COVID-19. An important lesson here is that consistent with our definition of resilience, which emphasizes the importance of anticipation and preparedness for potential crisis, we must find a way to depend on the knowledge gained from previous events to make our observation and identification efforts more effective, and to help us prepare for future similar situations.
I know this doesn’t sound like rocket science and the least, yet, as we all watched the events of COVID-19 sweep across our planet, we had the opportunity to see how many or how few of lessons available from experience were brought to bear on the current crisis. In terms of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, how do you think our business and community leaders could have employed some of the lessons you have learned about accepting the realities and potential consequences of a situation, and then developing and implementing solutions to deal with them. Like you, I can think of many things that I believe should have been managed differently. In some cases, quite a bit differently.
We could spend a good bit of time on this topic. I’m certain that thousands of researchers and pundits will be studying not only the healthcare lessons of COVID-19, but also the leadership lessons to be learned as a result. We’ve seen quite a spectrum of leadership performances during the pandemic. As a high-stakes leader yourself, I’m simply going to ask you to reflect on what you have witnessed and to draw some lessons of your own.
If you’re a leader who’s made a commitment to continuous growth as I have, you’ll find it best to spend very little time dwelling on the apparent incompetence of some business and community leaders, and instead spending your time looking for nuggets of wisdom, looking for practices that resonated with you as a member of a specific stakeholder group, and incorporating them into your crisis leadership toolkit with a little personalization to make them truly yours. Yes, we’ve seen many examples of how not to lead during a crisis, but we’ve also seen many examples of exceptional leadership. Find examples of the latter and learn from these observations.
Finally, the future is still unclear as to how business and community leaders will reflect on their performance during the pandemic, learn from their experience, and implement changes to help their organizations to become more resilient. I think we can all agree that the potential lessons will be plentiful.
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High Stakes Leadership: Leading in Times of Crisis

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