Last week I talked about the importance of businesses maintaining customers’ trust during the current pandemic. Now, I want to get a little more personal. Let’s talk about our actions as leaders. So far, many of the examples during this crisis are not good.
The most heinous and trust-busting actions have come from our elected officials. There is a group of senators who knew of the coming pandemic. Did they take actions to prepare the United States of America? Did they consider the health of their own constituents? Nope. They sold stocks. They knew the market would crash, and they took care of themselves and a few wealthy donors.
In case you aren’t clear, this is horrendous leadership behavior. It is actually outrageous. Our response to this sort of action by our leaders should be outrage! Leaders have power, and with great power comes great responsibility. I cannot think of a punishment great enough for people who put personal monetary gain over the health of people depending on them. Seriously. This is an epic leadership fail for the ages.
The examples go down in the seriousness of their consequences, but not the display of bad judgment. Jeff Bezos owns Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, and he makes $8,961,187 an hour. He sent out a memo to Whole Foods employees, urging them to share paid time off with employees who become ill. Hmmm. This is a double-whammy of bad judgment.
First, grocery store employees are part of our frontline. We all need food and depend on grocery stores to provide it. Bezos can easily afford to cover paid sick leave for anyone who falls ill during the pandemic. In this instance, he is not taking care of the people who create his wealth or earning their loyalty or trust.
As a Whole Foods customer, I feel he isn’t doing much for me, either. He is encouraging people to work while they are sick, because no one wants to go without pay if they can avoid it. As a result, he is putting my health at risk by not ensuring that only very healthy people are handling my food. He has lost my trust as a customer, as well. He doesn’t seem to think that I or his employees matter very much.
I get a lot of emails from what I call the “Woowoo Community.” Some of the people in it have made a lot of money helping people feel better about themselves and even feeling better through alternative health options. I’m seeing a lot of “We’re in this together, so I am offering my deal at half off.” Hmmm. How generous. These are people who claim to care about my well-being but are really looking at the pandemic as a marketing opportunity. Shame on you! Offer your deal for free if you really want to help. Otherwise, keep it the same price and stop pretending that you care about my well-being.
I could go on and on with truly outrageous examples of poor leadership during this time of vulnerability. I think that it is high time that we got outraged about a lot of it! Leaders acting without integrity is one of the things that pushes my buttons and invites me to throw a lot of emotional pennies in a very forceful way. I’m working on using my emotional pennies in ways that will move us all forward to a good outcome. Sometimes it’s about using emotional pennies wisely for a good cause, not trying to avoid spending any at all.
However, there are some bright spots out there. One is Brené Brown. A recent Facebook post from her is below. I agree with her assessment and advice 100%.
Down on the frontlines, there are examples of humans being humane. These are true leaders. All of our healthcare workers and their families are making great sacrifices for the greater good. One of our local mayors is working tirelessly, and with a little ferocity, to make sure people don’t go hungry. Someone in my condo association put up a message offering to deliver food or run errands for anyone unable to go out. Even those who stay home are showing integrity and care for others. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to face ourselves without any distractions.
Here is the bottom line:
- Leaders with great power have a huge responsibility to use that power for the good of all – not just personal gain. I don’t mind people making money, but it should never be at someone else’s expense. And no one should ever receive personal gain through the abuse of power given to them as an elected official.
- Those of us without great power can make a difference by holding leaders responsible for their actions. It’s important that we call out outrageous and unacceptable behavior.
- Lastly, we can help. We are all leaders, and as Brené Brown says: “Our choices affect everyone around us. There is no such thing as ‘individual risk’ or ‘individual wellness.’”
Our best choices are kindness, compassion, and a dogged determination to ensure our leaders – with power and information that we do not have – act appropriately for the good of us all.
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