After spending most of my career in leadership positions in community work, I have come to know something about what makes for good leadership. Not to brag but in fact, I have founded or co-founded many local and even national organizations and projects to serve the community in effective ways.

I have had the privilege of working with many fine leaders in the community and learning from them what skills work best and how to mobilize people to accomplish good things.

When the novel coronavirus epidemic hit China back in December 2019, a good leader at the U.S. national level would have immediately convened a task force of experts to investigate this new virus – a novel virus – and consider the implications of what this could mean if it starts to spread.

Different viruses come up fairly frequently – that’s why some flu shots aren’t effective the following year because the flu virus is not always the same. In the past few decades, we have gone through SARS, MERS, and other iterations of swine flu, bird flu, etc. A good leader would have wanted to be prepared to stay ahead of any possible major threat to public health.

When the first case of COVID-19 hit American shores, a good leader would have asked qualified experts to come up with contingency plans for a possible epidemic, to develop options on how to deal with it, to explore possible impacts on society, and work out policies on how to keep the public informed and engaged.

A good leader would have asked for help from the right people – people who have the knowledge and experience as well as other leaders who have access to the public and can provide valuable guidance to shape policies and programs.

A good leader would have moved quickly to implement a corrective course of action to the American public.

When the virus began to spread across the country, a good leader would have made sure everyone was on-board with possible stringent measures and would have shown transparency and concern and empathy to those afflicted and affected.

A good leader would have put forward a clear and consistent plan worked out by the experts and those in the know and let them share in the leadership.

A good leader would personify confidence and be a calming influence, but not at the expense of being credible and realistic. There were instances in my experience when people become insecure and fearful in a critical situation – so the leader must never seem out of control or panicky but at the same time, if your house is burning down, if one’s affectation is not consistent with the situation, people will conclude that the leader appears to be “clueless.”

A good leader knows how to bring people together and inspires people to work in unison for the common good — to unite all the people to fight a common enemy such as a life-threatening virus.

The good leader does not care about who gets the credit and does not need to hear praises for doing the right thing.

I wish we had a good leader at the highest level in our country.


Bill Watanabe writes from Silverlake near downtown Los Angeles and can be contacted at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.




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