Here and now, during the third decade of the Twenty First Century, we are all facing profound challenges associated with the COVID-19 virus. This is both a personal and collective challenge. I propose that there is a particularly important point to make regarding how we are responding to these challenges—and even more fundamentally the challenges we face in the future when faced with the inevitable future pandemic occurrences. No one set of responses is best. Agility is required of a great (or at least effective) leader. Furthermore, the strategies they formulate in collaboration with those whom they serve must constantly be monitored and adjusted. Agility and flexibility are required because the current virus and future viruses are themselves ever shifting.
We must be flexible in sometimes engaging our own wisdom and the wisdom of other people. This requires the generation and use of valid and useful information. At other times, we must be courageous and forceful in our addressing the virus challenge—and must support and help guide those who are at the forefront of our sustained struggle against the virus. A third approach must also be available to us and others in our community and global society. We need compelling visions of what our community and society should be like as the virus exits (at some point in the future). Only with a shared vision of our desired future can we be clear about the key question to be asked during this COVID-19 era: how do we preserve and improve our society?
There is a fourth requirement: at times we must bring together wisdom, courage and vision—so that we might move forward personally and collectively under the guidance of a coherent and integrated map of virus-engagement. Virus-related leadership and virus-responsive public policies requires the capacity to shift styles of leadership and strategic directions in ways that are contingent on the dynamic and complex nature of the virus. I offer a brief description of these maps of leadership and strategy. I begin with the map of wisdom—which is what I will be referring to as the Golden Yellow response.
A Map of Wisdom: The Golden Yellow Response
I begin with the leadership style and virus-response strategy that focuses on wisdom. This is a style and strategy that emphasizes the collection and analysis of valid and useful information. The thoughtful and thorough assessment of the virus and all responses to the virus is of great value, given that the COVID-19 virus is highly elusive, and its spread involves complex and often unpredictable processes. We must stop and reflect on these complex and unpredictable processes so that we get our response “right.” There should be no unanticipated outcomes or misuse of the scarce and often expensive resources needed to confront the virus.
We call this a Golden Yellow response because it resembles the nature and function of the sun—providing illumination and light (often from a considerable distance). Illumination and light are required when we sit back for a moment to learn more about the crisis we are facing and when we take a considered stance in formulating appropriate public policy (Bergquist, 2020).In standing at a distance, we must ask a critical question: what do we know to be valid and useful regarding the COVID-19 virus? To answer this question, we must engage slow thinking (Kahneman, 2013) and embrace a systems-based mode of analysis (Meadows, 2008). As Jay Forrester, the founder of system dynamics, often advocated: “don’t just do something, stand there!” This illuminating analysis might lead us to “inconvenient” truths that shake up our comfortable assumptions about the nature of the virus and the best ways in which to confront COVID-19—the alternative being either pushing our resources in the wrong direction or moving forward without any clear direction at all.
Wise/Golden Yellow Leadership
A person is assigned golden yellow leadership in a family, clan, group or organization because this person is assumed to have (or is provided) more experience and education than anyone else or because this person possesses some fundamental and distinctive knowledge. This person is considered Wise either because their competency is inherited or because it has been taught to them (usually resulting from this person’s inherited wealth or exhibition of great promise as a young person).
Alexander the Great is certainly one of the vivid personifications of this Wise mode of leadership. Alexander was “born into greatness.” Alexander’s father had been king of Macedonia and, even more importantly, Alexander displayed great potential as a young man—physically and intellectually. Alexander was the only pupil of one a legendary teacher: Aristotle. Thus, at a young age, Alexander was identified as a wise leader. While most wise leaders don’t arrive at their leadership position until accumulating many years of experience and expertise, Alexander was able to assume a leadership role, based on wisdom, at a very early age, in large part because of not only his inheritance (father was king) and his early display of competence, but also his credentials as a pupil of Aristotle.