Uniting People During a Crisis

During my business career I have led through many crises and learned important lessons. From experiences I developed a framework for leaders encountering turbulent times. It involves assessing the situation and facing the brutal facts, developing a plan and communicating it clearly, uniting people under a common vision, and monitoring and adjusting the plan constantly.

At a time like the one we’re living in now, I believe nothing is as absolutely critical as uniting people with inspiring leadership.

You are a leader in this crisis

First, let me broaden the definition of leader.

To me, it does not matter whether you are the head of a company, school, church, professional group, or the head of a family.

If you are in a position to influence a group of people, big or small, you are a leader.

In this crisis, you as a leader can make a huge difference by inspiring people to put aside differences, to compromise, and even to make sacrifices so we can defeat the virus that threatens our way of life.

Compromising for the greater good

Although we haven’t faced a health crisis like this before, there may be learnings from other crises we can use to deal with the current one.

Take the element of compromise, for example, which is critical in solving crises and conflicts.

I saw that in action during my role as president of BellSouth Latin America when our operation in Argentina was impacted by a huge economic crisis.  It became clear that if we continued to sell mobile handsets, we would become insolvent in a matter of weeks.  We asked our sales team to stop selling phones and to become collection agents instead. I told them I knew that was not their job, and I asked them to help us out by changing their role for a while. They did and we survived.

That’s an example of what can be achieved when a team unites under a common goal and is willing to compromise and make bold adjustments.

We’re already seeing similar adjustments today: Wait staff at some restaurants delivering meals to customers’ homes, breweries producing hand sanitizer, clothing manufacturers making protective masks.

The heroes

In my view, by adjusting and compromising these businesses and their employees have joined the ranks of heroes in this fight:

  • The nurses and doctors who are going in to work every day to treat patients known to be contagious, and doing so with limited protective equipment, often risking their personal health to help others.
  • The truckers who are working incredible hours to deliver the goods we need at our time of confinement.
  • The food delivery teams working around the clock to make sure people get the supplies they need at home so they don’t have to go to places where they would need to congregate.

United we’ll win

I firmly believe that a difficult time like this brings out the best in people and unites us.

I’ve seen it time and again: when a talented group of people is inspired and united by a common goal they accomplish things that they never thought possible.

In this case we already have an amazingly talented team: the best scientists, the best doctors, and the best medical teams. We also have the world’s greatest economic engine.

What we need now is for everyone to get united.

  • United in following the safety guidelines and staying home even if we’re not in the high-risk population.
  • United in getting states that are not as impacted to help those that are most severely hit.
  • United in helping those who in this crisis don’t have a way of sustaining themselves.

This crisis has taught us that in today’s global environment, adversity in one part of the world can bring adversity to everyone in the world. Today’s leaders have a duty to set an example of unity and compromise that future generations can follow when the next crisis comes along.

We’re all human and we share one planet. Let’s get united so we can win this battle and any other that come along.

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