The challenge we face today is different in scope from those we have ever faced before. The coronavirus has spread quickly around the world, leaving a tragic and growing toll of illness and lost lives. This is first and foremost a public health crisis, and the most important response is coming from those on the front lines in hospitals, emergency services, and care facilities. We watch in collective awe and gratitude as these dedicated individuals put themselves at risk in service to others.
Over the past few months, I have spoken with many leaders to discuss how they are coping both personally and professionally with the new “changed” world. Interestingly, many have made comments about changes to their habits—daily routines and ways of working—ways that they have adopted to help them weather this crisis and emerge stronger from it.
The pressures can seem daunting. Coping with the sudden shutdown of the global economy was hard enough; figuring out how to restart in such an uncertain environment is, if anything, even harder. Leaders are expected to show “deliberate calm” and “boundless optimism.” Everyone wants them to demonstrate empathy—and, at the same time, be highly engaged and fact based in their actions. Our thought process must be both telescopic and microscopic— that is, have both a coherent long-term strategic view and a set of effective short-term tactical solutions at hand. The COVID-19 crisis is a once-in-a-century event, and no training or experience in previous downturns has prepared leaders or their valued teams for this grave situation.
In a crisis, changes are subject to intense scrutiny and sometimes overinterpretation. During this pandemic, leaders have had to be extremely thoughtful about the nature and sequence of their actions to illustrate the new style of management and priorities. We may not have liked “change” thrust upon us, but our mission remains unfettered. We have been given no choice but to embrace the “change” as the new normal.
Welcome to the new normal.
The COVID-19 crisis is proving to be a revealing test of leadership. Emerging from it strengthened, compassionate, confident, forward looking, and successful will be those leaders who can cope with the extraordinary personal and professional challenges. Unlike in Greek mythology, there is no external deity who will fly to the rescue. But embracing and adopting a set of thoughtful, fact based far-sighted strategies can be a recipe for both your authority’s long-term success and personal well-being.
Once the crisis has abated, and those new habits that prove effective in the heat of the crisis remain—leaders become better leaders.
We are delighted that PMAA is your valued partner and voice as we emerge from the global crisis and on behalf of the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association – welcome to “change” --- embrace it.
Thomas A. Zeuner, Executive Director
Northampton Bucks County Municipal Authority