• Melita Ball

April 9, 2020 Blog Post

Leadership in Crisis:

Lessons from Life to Take Us Beyond Compliance                              

When I was a young Philosophy student in a small college in Virginia, we philosophical junkies talked and thought and wrote a great deal about something we calledThe Human Condition.  While other college kids spent their Friday nights at parties, I and a select group of other “junkies” would take up residence in a dorm basement for an evening of thought-provoking discussion that often times ended up posing more questions than answers and, on some level, I suppose that was the point. 

Let me pause here and say, to all the readers who are NOT philosophical junkies, please keep reading.  I promise not to delve too far into the esoteric in this blog but wanted to give some context for how I ended up writing a blog post about Leadership, Life Lessons, and Compliance. 

Now, with a much more mature mind, I find myself drifting back into the discipline of thinking once again.  It may sound strange but most of our adult life is spent doing things … getting things done … moving from one task to another.  Accomplishments defined by marking tasks on a To Do list ascompleted on time… always driving to deadlines. 

I believe our current circumstance has given us all a rare and profound gift if we choose to take advantage of it.  It has allowed all of us to pause a bit and reflect … on life, on business, on what matters and what doesn’t.  For me, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about our collectiveHuman Conditionin this moment and, in a broader sense, ethical leadership in crisis.  Not only what it means for me personally but also what it means for this industry.  I’d like to share some thoughts and connections that I’ve made in the process so far.

One of the first things that connected for me was the realization that every major Regulation and Standard around the world demands and requires, as a point of baseline compliance, ethical leadership from our executives.  Australia, Brazil, Canada, Europe, Japan, S. Korea, and the United States all have the full weight of product safety, quality, and efficacy resting squarely on the shoulders of the executive leadership of the respective organizations.  Additionally, there are significant consequences for those leaders who shrug off those responsibilities.

My next thought may seem a bit odd but it was how utterly absurd it is to try to mandate ethical leadership through regulations.  Don’t get me wrong here, in the real world, I completely understand the need to set forth these mandates with associated penalties but is it really effective? 

What’s the real intent here?  Can we force people to do the right thing in tough situations just because their job description and regulations say so?  Decidedly not; but maybe the real intent here is to strongly encourage organizations to have hiring practices that look for leaders with more substance than a simple list of accomplishments over their career.  Maybe look for a demonstrated ability to ethically lead in uncharted crisis. 

So, what does that look like?  Luckily, for all of us, we have some fantastic examples in our industry of people doing exactly that.

I’ve had the honor of seeing many of my clients transforming what they do in order to respond to our needs globally.  For the first time, I have seen more CEO’s focused on people and global collaboration and communication than on competition and their balance sheets.  I have witnessed unsung heroes that are going to work in factories every day with more commitment than ever before and they are working to transform their normal product lines into supply chains for what is critically needed right now. 

There are so many truly inspiring stories out there that it’s hard to capture them all.  Yes, we will suffer economic consequences in the months and maybe years ahead of us.  That will likely be our next big crisis but the true leaders that I am watching right now understand clearly that without focusing on the current crisis, we may not have another crisis to worry about next.  They also understand that what we are learning right now will help all of us get through that next crisis as well. 

One thing is true … for most of us alive today, we are all experiencingThe Human Conditiontogether in a way that we’ve never experienced before.  It will likely shape our collective lens for generations to come.  So, I ask you, what does it look like through that lens when we come out of this? Will we have learned anything profound or will we all go back to work and pick up where we left off?

With that, I would like to open this forum up to all of you. 

First, what are you thinking about right now? 

Second, will you share with all of us some of the great things you are doing in your organization? 

Please join in!

As always, thanks for reading!  Stay safe and well!

Melita Ball

CEO and Principal Consultant

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