Leaders around the world have had two critically important decisions to make during the Covid-19 crisis. Of course there are lots of little ones that have had to be made. In terms of political survival (and let’s be clear, that is always near the top of the decision tree) there are only two.
The Easy Decision
The first decision was the easy one. As the ‘tide’ of everything that came with the coronavirus rushed in, leaders had to decide, ‘how shall we respond’? At that stage, there was a massive ground swell of support as fear washed through the public at large, driven by the volumes of data, modelling, and dystopian narratives dished out by the WHO, the Media and Governments. When you’re making a decision with a nation behind you, it’s not difficult to go wrong.
Incredibly some leaders still managed to mess that up, and others have emerged swimmingly as they were seen to do all the right things.
The Tough Decision
If decision one was about saving people from the virus, decision two (the difficult one) is about saving people from consequences of decision one. It’s not life versus the economy, it’s life versus life.
What makes this decision all the more difficult, is that it will have to be made in the context of a turning tide (support of the people). Tides always turn and reverse their way back from where they came.
Make the decision too early and you’re in trouble, make it too late and you’re in trouble. Politically, this is not about whether you make it, it’s about when you make it. Timing is everything.
Where is the Tide?
Currently this makes for interesting reflection and debate. Countries are complex and there isn’t one perspective or point of view. Each person approaches the ‘Where is the Tide?’ conversation from their own nuanced point of view. This makes it even more difficult for a leader, as they weigh up popular opinion and decide when to strike? And so we wait for our leaders to decide.
Assisting the Tide
Inevitably some of them are assisting the tide with their illogical decisions and paternalistic mutterings and threats. I sometimes wonder why they don’t understand that this crisis is about all of us, and not just them. In a democracy they need us way more than we need them.
My Hope is that they get it right. There is a lot riding on decision two (the tough one). Timing is everything, and the last thing we need (and thankfully the last thing a political leader wants) is to make the call too late.
Warren Buffett once said,
“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked”