Leadership 101 (Redux)

A glance at the website of Sanford Health in South Dakota tells me that this is a large, multi-disciplinary healthcare system focused on both wellness and acute care.  There are 50,000 employees, all looking for wisdom, vision and yes, leadership in this difficult time.

Their CEO made the headlines this week by stating that he had and recovered from COVID, and therefore would not wear a mask. Really?

So, the pundits are all weighing in.  There is no evidence that having the virus ensures immunity, that is still under research.  Most of the commentary is about the efficacy of wearing a mask after recovering from COVID.

But let’s get real here.  This is not an issue of virus or health.  This is not a medical problem (well, it is, but that’s not my point here.)

This is about leadership, plain and simple.

As a leader, you set the example.  Period. You don’t ask anyone to do something you are not willing to do yourself.  Healthcare workers wear these things for a 12-hour shift.  The masks hurt. They impede vision and speech.  They are a pain in the butt.  But they are necessary.  The preponderance of evidence, at this point, says so.

I suspect this same CEO would not allow an unmasked COVID-recovered healthcare worker to attend to patients – that would be criminal negligence.

But back to the point.  Leadership is important.  There are fundamentals of leadership that have been studied and researched ad nauseum.  And they pretty clearly say that an effective leader walks alongside her people.  The fifth principle of United States Marine Corps leadership (and really, they do sort of know how to do the whole leadership thing) is “Set the Example.” Set the standard, and then abide by it.

It isn’t hard to rationalize this simple statement, if you think about it.  Why should someone follow what you say, if you do something different?  I believe that the dictionary would call that hypocrisy?

Leadership today is wobbly. We seem to rationalize behaviors that fly in the face of sound leadership far too easily.

It is time to revisit the fundamentals and recognize that leading means setting the example and following it.