The Coronavirus Is Redefining Leadership

The global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic caught most of the world off guard. It’s a terrible virus, and I hope you’re doing everything possible to stop the spread and stay healthy. But, as John P. Kotter said in his book, A Sense of Urgency, leaders should not let a good crisis go to waste.

The coronavirus, like any crisis, presents opportunities for growth. Leaders must acknowledge the urgency of the situation and react. Leaders don’t need all the answers today, and their reactions don’t need to be perfect. But leaders must try, adapt, and continue to improve their opportunities.

Right now, most organizations are reacting.

I worked for a local church for fifteen years. Being unable to meet in person is difficult for a church. However, I’ve seen pastors being creative and reacting to the crisis accordingly.

Most churches are now streaming Sunday worship online. From daily check-ins and nightly bedtime stories, Zoom, FaceTime, and Facebook Live enabled pastors to connect with their congregations in new and exciting ways. From what I’ve seen, groups are enjoying the newfound access to their leaders. While these digital opportunities do not replace in-person connections, they do provide a fantastic alternative.

Over the last few weeks, businesses and schools followed suit. Today, a vast majority of the US population is under some form of stay at home order. Schools have all moved to distance learning, and employers embraced a remote workforce.

While all these new opportunities for connection are working, the question of what happens next is incredibly important.

Earlier this week, Tom Farr asked what survives in a post-pandemic world. I fear a lot of organizations will shelve their newfound opportunities for connection and return to business as usual. While local churches and offices are fully embracing the crisis as an opportunity for growth, large institutions are enhancing old models.

The United Methodist Church, which I served for fifteen years, recently reminded churches what is legally permissible in a live worship stream. Without written approval, taking weeks to months, worship liturgy used by every United Methodist church cannot be streamed. Really? While I’m not advocating for breaking the law, it’s time for the institution to change.

The world is changing daily. Churches finally embraced a digital congregation. Employers resistant to remote teams adapted overnight. People are embracing digital means of connection, and their craving will not go away once we’ve made it through the coronavirus crisis.

Whatever leaders decide, they must commit to the long haul. Returning to the old way of doing business before the coronavirus is no longer possible. In-person worship and meetings will never completely go away, but people now accustomed to face-to-face digital conversations will not abandon that desire. They will crave both the in-person option and the digital extension.

Leaders must explore what their organization looks like post-pandemic. If the answer is the same pre-coronavirus, well, according to John P. Kotter, they wasted a good crisis and failed to lead.

Leaders willing to adapt will thrive, while those biding their time will not.

Closing Thought

It’s okay not to be okay right now.

We’re all dealing with something none of us can fathom. Being physically separated from people presents challenges, many people are out of work or on significantly reduced hours, and let’s not forget the virus itself. It’s a tough time.

For me, as I assume is the same for most of you, some days are better than others. But I strive to focus on hope and know this strange time will eventually end. Our world will be different, as I talked about earlier, but we will get through this time. Together.

That’s it for now. Be safe. Wash your hands and avoid people. Thanks for reading.

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