Community Voices

Thomas Friedman of The New York Times wrote on April 20 that in a time of crisis, like we are in now, with people feeling frightened and uncertain, leadership doesn’t just matter more. It matters exponentially more.

In moments like these, when the choices we make are so impactful, people desperately want to believe that their leaders know what they’re doing. But they quickly learn that in times like these, leaders either grow or swell — they either grow out of their weaknesses and rise to the level of the challenge, or all of their worst weaknesses swell to new levels.

Dov Seidman, the founder and chairman of two companies that promote ethics and compliance and values-based leadership, explored this leadership issue further with Friedman. Seidman states of leadership in a crises:

Great leaders trust people with the truth. And they make hard decisions guided by values and principles, not just politics, popularity or short-term profits. Great leaders understand that when so many vulnerable and scared people are so willing, so quickly, to put their livelihoods and even their lives in their leaders’ hands, and make sacrifices asked of them, they expect the truth and nothing but the truth in return.

Leaders who trust people with the truth are trusted more in return. But you better not betray my trust — by not telling me the truth — when I have literally put my life in your hands.

That is why a comparison of a few persons in leadership positions is important. The Times has a list, as of March 15, President Donald Trump’s attempts to play down coronavirus. But Trump also contradicts his own experts to the point that certain persons who listen to the presidential briefings take inappropriate medicines or poisons and protest against reasonable actions taken by other leaders.

Even more disturbing is an Associated Press news article of last week indicating a set of detailed documents created by the nation's top disease investigators of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The documents are meant to give step-by-step advice to local leaders deciding when and how to reopen public places such as mass transit, day care centers and restaurants during the still-raging pandemic but have been shelved by the Trump administration. They were supposed to be published Friday, May 1, but agency scientists were told by the White House that the guidance "would never see the light of day," according to a CDC official.

So not only is the Trump administration playing down the virus, they are actively stopping information that could save American lives.

Let’s contrast that with Gov. Tim Walz's response to the pandemic. He took an approach that has used scientific advice in making his leadership decisions. In his briefings he explains, or lets the experts explain, exactly why a certain course of action is being taken. He continues to make that explanation almost daily and adjusts as new scientific information becomes available.

From the beginning Walz said more testing is needed to know the proper next steps to safely open our Minnesota economy. He had a “moon shot” goal of 5,000 Minnesota tests a day.

The Walz administration has indicated that Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota will be the key players facilitating the state’s COVID-19 testing. The partnership, funded in part by $36 million from the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund, will establish the capacity to deliver 20,000 molecular and 15,000 serology tests per day.

We had a remote meeting for our company division this week. Sally French Tyler, the manager of our division, gave us a very honest appraisal of the status of our division. She indicated what the plan was, explained how and why the division would be proceeding in the next months, and indicated we would adjust based upon circumstances. But she would keep us informed of all ongoing matters and also take our input into the decision-making process.

Now I ask you, which decision approach would you want, for your parents, your children and you? Do you like the decision-making approach of Donald Trump or Tim Walz and Sally French Tyler?

Kerry Meagher is one of several people in the Savage community who write for Community Voices – a column appearing weekly in the opinion and commentary section of this newspaper.

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