No leader, if she or he had been given the choice of whether to face a global pandemic and massive loss of lives and treasure, would have chosen it. We would have all seen the coronavirus pandemic as unacceptable. But now that we find ourselves in the middle of it, accept it we must. In a short series of blogs here, I have tried to offer a guide to leaders in dealing with the pandemic as a loss, grieving it, and negotiating the stages of the model offered by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross back in the 1970s. The final stage of grieving in that model is acceptance.
The night before last, I excused myself from my wife's birthday party a little early because I wasn't feeling well. Last night I went upstairs early again, suffering the same symptoms. As I sat in front of the television, I realized that I was experiencing anxiety and depression.
A mighty wave of anger is on its way to America and its institutions! Buffeted by the rising tide of coronavirus, we can expect successive waves of emotion to keep rolling in over the weeks and months ahead. Having experienced these realities in Kirkland, Washington, where death first reached America’s shores, our local leaders may have a short head start on the process of grief and loss that COVID-19 has set in motion across the world.
There is a leadership folk tale about the Chinese character that means “crisis,” allegedly composed of the two Chinese characters for "danger" and "opportunity." This tale has become so ubiquitous that even some native Chinese speakers believe it. Sometimes wisdom transcends its origin, even if it started with an error. In fact, every crisis includes an opportunity. If the COVID-19 pandemic means, as we hear so many saying now, that we have come to the “end of the world as we have known it,” we will be faced with the awesome privilege of building a new one! I say, “Bring the future on! I’m planning to live there for the rest of my life.”
I love visiting Singapore! It may be one of the world’s smallest countries, but it has an immense vision. The Christian community there constantly inspires me with its gung-ho, change-the-world, all-things-are-possible worldview based on its outsized concept of God. On my most recent trip, a friend asked me to address a group of leaders on the topic, “The Challenges and Imperatives of Christian Leadership in the New Global Economy.” I love challenging speech topics, so I worked hard on this one.