In the Book the Seven Epaulettes of Leadership, I explained how I don’t try to gain respect from people. It’s not that I’m cynical, I just know that people will give you their respect when they like you. Now, when they stop liking you, they will take their respect back. And I don’t want anything that you can give to me, and then take away.
So, what is respect?! It’s a gift, that someone gives to you. Usually because you did or said something to earn it. In polite society we grant a measure of respect to people unknown to us. Now, there’s respect and there’s respect. The later requires a quantifiable measure of your attention and action.
For example, not respecting the resourcefulness or resolve of an adversary could put you at risk. COVID-19 is my case study here. We have various political leaders trying to get their people to respect a virus that can kill them. You would think that this would be an easy task, but you would be wrong. We have leaders trying to get people to respect a virus, but the people don’t respect the directives of their leaders. Note: I didn’t go so far as to say they don’t respect their leaders. I get it, you will always get some dissenters.
This is what happens when you only lead your audience and manage the populace. There’s no continuity of leadership between the head of government and those most at risk. There should be a “through-line” for communication, direction, execution, and feedback. That’s not happening! Just hours prior to me writing this, I passed by a church on the way to the supermarket. To my surprise, the church was open, with congregants in it, and one person walking in. This, after New Yorkers were told not to hold services and no gatherings for more than 2 people. They beat that order by at least 8 people.
Divided We Fall
In Japan, some employers defied local authorities and opened their offices. I was shocked that the employees were still going to work and packing themselves into trains to get there. Even more disturbing, some Japanese people attended the annual Cherry Blossom event. So, we are we so defiant?
I’m American, I can answer this question. Americans are rebels with rules. We abide by rules that are advantageous to us. In terms of following others, I’ve said this before, “people are more inclined to follow relationships than leaders.” The “lock down” state that we’re in is no easy task, restrictions are too restrictive, cabin fever sets in, and well-placed directives unravel. At the core of the problem was the inability of our leadership to put in the necessary work to coach the masses prior to a crisis event. Politicians are too busy fighting each other. If you’re fighting all the time, and not wining, you seem ineffective. Why would you be followed now? There’s no continuity of leadership.
COVID-19 has an advantage over us, because it follows an order set for it. Infiltrate all cells, get those cells to replicate tons of virus cells, and overwhelm the host with more cells.
We, humans, are more complex organisms and we only follow orders that we like or find convenient. We’re selective with the orders we follow.
Could it be that the thing designed to kill us can also teach us?!
Leadership should function like a virus. Every level of leadership should infect its subordinate level of leadership with the “order.” This process would continue until the host population was completely saturated. For this problem we needed a plan for such an instance, like what we have for terroristic threats. The U.S. has 5 of these threat levels represented by colors. We used to get them often after 911. I question why something like this wasn’t put into place already for a pandemic. You don’t need presidential authority to do this. Just have it ready. Each level comes with recommendations, expectations, timelines, contingency plans, worst-case-scenario’s, possible pain points, and organizational leads. I call this a “package.” It can be rolled out in in its entirety and the federal model can be replicated at the state, city, and local levels. I did a YouTube video about viral leadership.
Aristotle shared, “The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts.” This is how the virus kills, by producing so many parts that the sum of them destroy the host cell they invade. Notice how the virus doesn’t have to rely on the head to do its work. I’m not contradicting myself. You need a head to lead the way and the purpose, but once there, you need a willing cohort to execute the order. If we believe this, our approach should be unified as we are that cohort for the retaliation initiative.
Finally, the virus by design, intends to kill us off one-by-one by invading and replicating. To fight back, we must stick together but not be together. If you received orders to stay at home – this is your best weapon in the fight.