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Estherville News Editorial – 9/11 and COVID-19

By Staff | Sep 13, 2020

Nineteen years ago this past Thursday, the nation was overturned by the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and our people were never the same. The day wound up with nearly 3,000 deaths after two planes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York City, a third hit the Pentagon outside Washington, DC (data and evidence of the day show it really did, despite conspiracy theories to the contrary), and a fourth crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the black box showing its passengers did not take their fate sitting down but moved to stop the terrorists and they may have saved the potential target of the White House in so doing.

Following that day’s events and the launch of the global War on Terror, the entire organization of the U.S. unified combatant command drastically changed how every group and leader operated. They prepared for countless changes that continued to shift how they led.

As devastating as 9/11 and the coronavirus pandemic have been, both events have raised the bar for leadership.

As our workplaces had to shift their daily routines and overall ways of life, leaders refined their focus to meet the demands of a changing world’s needs.

In several ways, the events of 9/11 and the coronavirus pandemic have shaped the new standard of leadership, and first is the need of responsiveness.

The rapid pace of both 9/11 and the pandemic has caused a shock for most of us, which can delay a timely response.

Leaders are expected to respond proactively to protect what matters most, even when it means not always knowing what will happen next.

Leaders have also been stretched to learn to be flexible, even within the worst imaginable scenarios. Both 9/11 and the pandemic have come at the cost of countless lives and a ripple effect of living among constant threats.

Many leaders have had to transition teams to work from home, including significant health precautions in their systems and continue to navigate the impacts of COVID-19.

When tensions, stress and anxiety soar, it can be the most challenging time to be flexible. But without flexibility, and the ability to move forward with a goal through the disruptions and uncertainty of each day, leaders lack the vital character of resiliency.

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, we assumed it would alter regular routines for two weeks. Little could we have predicted the endless ways this pandemic would change leadership roles, let alone our world.

Although 9/11 and the current pandemic seem to call out new leadership standards, maybe crises do not so much shape a new leader as they more clearly reveal to us who a leader ought to be.

While these two events have brought America some of her most difficult seasons, they have called leaders to remember their roles and allowed us to step up to the occasion.