So what has the last 15 months of the Covid-19 pandemic taught us?
One must set aside the unfortunate but all too predictable babbling and tweets of elected officials. With far too rare an exception, they are self-interested partisans; flags in the wind who stand for everything and therefore nothing. They operate in a fictional reality of absolutes untethered to the basic struggles of their neighbors. They are not leaders.
In contrast, our first responders and essential workers are worthy leaders. They have quietly led this country forward during the Pandemic – doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, members of law enforcement, firefighters, transit and sanitation workers and all the men and women who went to work each day to ensure our safety, health and welfare. They have led by example, exhibiting the four pillars of great leaders.
Leaders are honorable – honest, fair and dedicated. They have a clear sense of right and wrong. They reject duplicity and obfuscation. They recognize and respect the truth.
Leaders are humble. They do not seek recognition or praise. They avoid it. They place the interest of the common good over their individual aspirations. They admit when they are wrong. They accept the consequences of their actions. They learn from life’s inevitable failures. They listen to conflicting views, not out of a sense of obligation but out of a sincere desire to understand and serve.
Leaders have empathy for the challenges confronting all of their neighbors, regardless of their race, gender, faith, economics, political affiliation and sexual orientation. Empathetic leaders do not summarily judge or condemn. They avoid destructive, divisive rhetoric. They believe in redemption and foster hope not despair.
Leaders are not born with courage. It is bred from their suffering, fear and adversity. Courage is the essential glue of leadership. “Without courage, [leaders] cannot practice any other virtue with consistence. [They] cannot be kind, true, merciful, generous or honest.” (Maya Angelou).
And so it is.
William P. Harrington