Friday, March 13, 2020

Leadership in the Face of the Coronavirus Panic: This is Why We've Been Doing What We've Been Doing, Men

It's go time, men!

Gentlemen (and ladies who read my blog), the coronavirus pandemic is precisely what we’ve been preparing for: Leadership.

We spend a lot of time talking about anything and everything related to masculinity. It’s time to stop talking. It’s time to put those long hours of personal development, study, and skill-honing to the test. It’s time to rise to the occasion and ACT. 

If you’ve been doing anything I write about in my blogs, we need you. Right now. Today. That might only be for your community, your workplace, your social group, or maybe just your family. Our national-level leadership has effectively abdicated their responsibility as leaders in the face of this crisis, but YOU can make a difference and help reduce this panic, which will ultimately save lives.

The coronavirus is gripping our society in a widespread fear most of us have never experienced. Psychologically, this is because the pandemic hits on all five of the things known to induce pandemic fear and anxiety:

  1. It can be fatal. 
  2. It’s invisible. 
  3. It’s hard to protect against. 
  4. Exposure is involuntary. 
  5. The authorities aren’t in control.  
The anxiety and fear people experience will not abate until one or more of these variables change, and that’s not likely going to happen any time in the immediate future. Worse, the fear is going to increase exponentially each and every day. Now is the time to make the decision to lead.

So, leaders, here’s what all of you need to do: 

  • Don't just tell people to calm down. This is an involuntary emotional response. Our brains don't work that way. Don’t call people stupid for this response, no matter how illogical it may seem. You can’t lecture away fear and anxiety. 
  • Make sure you're taking care of yourself through all of this. Leaders who neglect their own needs aren't leaders - they're martyrs. Get plenty of sleep. Eat a balanced diet. Get some exercise. Have some sex.
  • Accept the responsibility for the welfare of those you're leading. This is a solemn but important mental exercise. People need leaders right now, and that starts with making yourself responsible for their health and well-being. 
  • Accept that leadership in this kind of panic is difficult. This is not going to be easy. It will require a whole lotta emotional resiliency on your part. It’s going to require you to be able to shoulder a whole lotta stress. Mentally preparing for that will help you thrive if and when the shit really starts to hit the fan.
  • Embrace cooperativeness and reject division. Our society has been severely fractured along all kinds of ideological lines. Now is not the time to add to that bullshit. Now is the time to put our petty differences aside and help each other in every way we can. We need these kinds of tribes to emerge.
  • Get informed, but don’t ignore your intuition. Find reputable sources of information, starting with the CDC. We are and will continue to learn A LOT more about the virus, how it spreads, how to help prevent transmission, etc. in the coming days, weeks, and maybe even months. Use this information to dispel rumors, lies, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. But also trust your gut. Balance those two appropriately.
  • Project calmness. Move slower. Talk slower. Make sure you stand upright. Take up space. Breathe deeply. When you assume the leadership role, you have tremendous power to subconsciously influence others simply based on body language.
  • Don't wait for permission or direction from authorities to act. As a leader, you need to be able to take the initiative when you feel a decision has to be made.
  • Be decisive in everything you do, and be confident in those decisions. Never waver, never second-guess yourself. Especially in the presence of those you’re leading. 
  • Fall back back on pro-social values to help make difficult decisions. You may have to make decisions without all needed information. When that happens, default to values that keep society functioning, such as:
    • Dependability 
    • Reliability 
    • Commitment 
    • Open-mindedness
    • Consistency 
    • Honesty 
    • Good humor 
    • Compassion 
    • Motivation 
    • Optimism 
    • Respect
    • Courage
    • Perseverance
    • Service to others
  • Acknowledge people's anxiety. “I understand how scary this is, we’re having a normal response to a scary situation” is an incredibly powerful statement. For many, they recognize this anxiety is probably at least a little irrational, which just causes more anxiety. 
  • Acknowledge people’s fear of the unknown and uncertainty gripping us right now. We don’t know how or when this is going to end, and that uncertainty is terrifying. 
  • Give them concrete steps they can take to mitigate the risks. Social distancing. Hand washing. And anything else the scientists give us to help slow the spread.
  • Assess the resources you have available to you (including people and information sources), and be ready to use those resources creatively to solve tricky problems that may arise.
  • Be visible. Let the people you’re leading SEE you often. This is critically important to help them stay calmer. 
  • Collaborate with others in positions of leadership. We’re in the beginning stages of what could turn into a very ugly situation, and expedient creative problem-solving will be required. Collaborating with others in positions of leadership will help you be a better, more informed decision-maker. 
  • Identify and use existing and emerging support networks. Bookmark the following websites, which will list resources available in your community.:
  • Be a connector. As a leader, you’re not going to be able to personally help every one of your followers. Help who you can, but use ALL of your resources to help connect people who can help each other. 

This obviously isn’t a comprehensive list; it was hastily put together. I’ll update this post as needed.

We need you, men (and ladies.) This is the real deal. Even if the virus turns out to be relatively minor (which is looking like that won’t be the case), we still need to manage the panic that is only going to get much, much worse. Make the decision to step up, and make that decision right now, as you’re reading this. 

My audience is relatively small, so my reach with this post is going to be pretty limited. But the more people who can emerge as leaders, no matter how few people they’re leading, CAN and WILL make a difference in the coming days, weeks, and probably even months. 


If you have any questions or comments, shoot me an email to with the heading “LEADERSHIP”.

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