The Invisible Ebola Leader

There are many different places to lead from and some leaders use them all. They may lead from the front, pulling their people towards success. Sometimes they simply step aside for a moment or two and allow a member of their team to lead. Sometimes they move all the way to the rear and push their people forward. One of the best places to lead from is the middle of the pack; it allows a leader to come alongside of their people and coach them through what might initially seem to be an insurmountable problem.

But wherever they chose to lead from this much is certain: effective leaders are always visible. Their presence is always felt. They are fully engaged, supportive, and at least moderately aware all aspects of their organization.

Which brings us to a person recently named to an important leadership position in the United States. The recently appointed Ebola “Czar.” I wonder if anybody reading this post knows the name of this individual. Could you pick this person out of a crowd? Do you know if it’s a man or a woman?

How about the statement this person, the United State’s “leader” in the fight against Ebola, has made regarding the quarantine debate currently raging in several states…. Oh wait, he (yes, it’s a man) hasn’t said a word.

He hasn’t been seen. He hasn’t said a word. He has been both silent and invisible.

Now it’s possible he’s doing a heck of a job behind the scenes, under the radar as they say. Maybe he is a logistical magician and has everything well in hand. But I doubt it.

I doubt it because whatever else a leader is they are not invisible. It’s just not possible to lead while never being seen and never being heard. It’s just not possible to lead while never staking out a position and making a case for why you believe what you believe.

I’ll not sure that I wouldn’t prefer a somewhat incompetent leader with a flawed case over an invisible leader with no case to make. One may make mistakes but the other IS a mistake.

The current quarantine issue is a perfect example of what happens when a “leader” attempts to dodge a contentious issue. Their “people” will all go their own way; with no one to follow it should come as no surprise that no one is following. Their “people” in this case happen to be Governors of several states who are now making up their own guidelines. They may be doing their best but they aren’t doing “the” best because “the best” requires actual leadership.

I don’t know why the new Ebola Czar has kept such a low profile but I do know this: If you’re a leader who believes you can avoid conflict by hiding then you may have a leadership position but you’re no leader.

Just so we’re clear, conflicts should not be confused with mere disagreements. A disagreement may, just may, resolve itself with time. A conflict will not.

Conflicts are infused with emotions because in a conflict people feel threatened. It could be that their self-esteem is threatened, their authority might be threatened in the case of a boss or a parent, or their sense of well-being could be threatened as is the case with Ebola.

Leaders, at least Authentic Servant Leaders, know that a conflict is not resolved until the threat is removed. So they engage in conflict resolution, not just engage but actively, courageously, engage. They are highly visible, they risk saying something wrong. They risk offending someone, they may even risk making the situation worse in the hope of resolving the conflict.

But they don’t hide. They never hide. They are not invisible!

Every leader would likely agree that the new Ebola Czar could be more visible. It’s always easy to see what the other person could do better. But here’s the question: are YOU as a leader visible enough?

We may not learn much from the czar about Ebola but we can certainly learn this from him about leadership: If you not going to be at least a little visible then maybe you don’t actually need to be there at all.

If your people can’t see you then your people can’t follow you. Make sure they can see you!