Making decisions for my personal life doesn’t daunt me. Since I’m in my late seventies and live with chronic heart disease, I know that sequestering at home is the right thing to do. Getting out for a bit of exercise is important, so my wife and I are careful to maintain physical distance between ourselves and those we pass on the sidewalk. On the few occasions when I’m at the pharmacy or picking up a take-out food order, I choose to wear one of my two decorative face masks. My life, my responsibility.
I have such a deep sense of relief, though, that others are tasked with the responsibility of making the critical COVID-19 decisions.
I jump on all announcements issued by the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County. When Governor Inslee announces that he’ll be addressing us, my wife Linda and I settle in front of the television, eager for the information and instructions he’ll provide. I watch Governor Cuomo’s updates each day, knowing that I’ll be getting valid information. When Cuomo appears on the screen, I sit forward, cock my head, and strain to take in every word. As I give thanks for these voices of reason, I ache with sadness that no trustworthy guidance comes from the current occupant of the White House.
Our need for leadership is fundamental. Our grief when it is missing is deep. About two thousand years ago, St. Paul gave a good description of what it is we yearn for. Paul had assigned his student Titus to a church start on the island of Crete. Here’s how he defined the leaders that Titus would need:
Supervisors should be without fault as God’s managers: they shouldn’t be stubborn, irritable, addicted to alcohol, a bully, or greedy. Instead, they should show hospitality, love what is good, and be reasonable, ethical, godly, and self-controlled. They must pay attention to the reliable message as it has been taught to them so that they can encourage people with healthy instruction and refute those who speak against it. (Titus 1:7-9)
Show hospitality, be reasonable, ethical, self-controlled—a fine list. I remember managers I have had who met these qualities, in ways both big and small. Richard identified himself on the phone, even though his Jamaican accent was unmistakable. Mike, when the state was facing severe cuts in positions, opened an update by stating boldly, “I found out today that my own job is on the line.” Ruth always defined her relationship to me as my mentor, rather than my evaluator. From those and others I received healthy instruction
Who do we have now, at the national level, ready for this never-before pandemic? Current examples of crisis-ready leadership come from beyond our borders. In the US, no woman has yet broken the glass ceiling blocking the office of President. However, in this pandemic time, many are crediting women heads of state for their competent, effective governance. Those include Erna Solberg, Norway, Tasi Ing-wen, Taiwan, Angela Merkel, Germany, and Jacinda Adern, New Zealand. As the political pundits scrutinize these COVID-19 leaders, they note that the women have successfully adapted a relational style, focusing on building trust and alleviating fears while managing the details of the crisis.
I’ve enjoyed following Jacinda Adern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Adern is her country’s third female prime minister. Only thirty-seven when elected, she is the world’s youngest female head of state. Since 2017, Adern has led her country through a terrorist attack, a volcanic eruption, climate change reforms, and now the COVID-19 pandemic. She has guided New Zealand with a steady hand, making the hard decision while still having the time and temperament to reassure the children of New Zealand that the Easter Bunny was not covered by the stay-at-home restrictions. As of the end of May, New Zealand has eliminated the virus. PM Adern stated, “I really rebel against this idea that politics has to be a place full of ego and where you’re constantly focused on scoring hits against each one another. Yes, we need a robust democracy, but you can be strong and you can be kind.”
Two thousand years ago the advice for leaders was to show hospitality, love what is good, and be reasonable. Today’s leaders, today’s true leaders, remind us to build trust and alleviate fears.
I sit at home, comfortable making the small decisions I’m called to make. I sit in prayer for all those working to move us through this course in a positive direction. May they have the stamina to finish what’s been put before them.
Thank you, friend, for reading along.