Leaders need to lead the way (A Citizen’s Letter in a Time of Crisis)

I have been disappointed for some time from what I’ve read, watched in the media and heard through the chatter amongst peers as this crisis unfolds. I have seen everything from calm to stupid. After work on Wednesday I decided to stop by the grocery store and get a few things for the weekend; such as hand wipes, some Lysol spray and maybe some fruit and other little knickknacks. However, when I arrived at the grocery store and began shopping for my few items I notice to my surprise that the shelves were empty, of meats, of fruits, seafood and the other paper products that I was seeking for.  I overheard a shopper asked one the store personnel about toilet paper, I thought for a minute in a humorous way that was strange. So I decided to go to the aisle to help the shopper out finding toilet paper. I didn’t really need any toilet paper but to my astonishment to was gone. The fully stocked shelves of paper products including toilet paper were gone.   Go figure!!!  No one sensible enough to believe that just a few weeks ago before this surge of panic hit the airwaves people would be fighting over toilet paper and paper products, so reality began unfolding.  Then capture this moment in your imagination that other people with families were walking up and down the food aisles in a daze wondering like me where all the paper products, fruit and meats disappear to.  I could see the look in the people eyes and in their expressions of disbelief; I missed out and thought in mind of when the shelves will be stocked again.  The sad part of this experience is that I didn’t need food for the month or for the week. All I needed was a few things. However, looking at some of the families in disbelief of what they were witnessing walking up and down the food isles trying to find that needed food item perhaps dinner for that night; was sad to observe.

I guess people went stir crazy, when they saw that our Government at all levels didn’t have a handle on what was going on, held and back vital information to the people. This caused skepticism, cynicism and uncertainty amongst the general public. This causes psychological negative behaviors that were displayed such as fear, panic and stress.   Those who took matters into their own hands panic and began buying in large quantities of essential items.   Therefore, negative display of behaviors manifests themselves by shoppers raiding the supermarket stores shelves during the worst time in this world’s history.  These were very selfish acts committed against our fellow men.    

Another way of looking at the committed selfishness is the disruption on the supply chain just out of fear.  Disruption in an already fragile supply chain, according to Steve Culp of Forbes magazine can reduce the share pricing as much as 7% of affected companies, and cause slowdowns in the market place in response to the disruption. This previous run on the supermarkets sent a jolt in the supply chain which was behavior driven.  This false negative can cause bottlenecks within those effected companies.

From an economic scale the disruptive behavior disturbed an already complex and fragile supply chain.  This behavior sent false negatives in the market place and distorted the prices of the commodity the law of supply and demand was not implemented.  We live in free market system, the law of supply and demand says that when the price of a commodity will net demand goes up in the supply of that commodity is down in the price is higher. On the flipside when the demand for those commodities is down in the price or supply that entire commodity is up in the price is lower. The distortion comes in when the price of a commodity doesn’t follow the law of supply and demand.

While people made a run on the supermarkets just hoard it for them instead of buying what they need for right now. Instead people had no regard for others such as those families that were in shock and unable to find the flexibility of buying those needed items for that day or the week.  People were out for self, these actions were based out of fear driven behaviors and this selfish acts happen across the nation.  People were literally fighting for these essential commodities.  This is a defining moment not only for leaders in organizations in the community but also leaders in Washington DC. I will save the politics for later but right now we have an elephant in the room and we got to get it out.

So I appeal to leaders at all levels, first must display calmness and control especially at the local levels and restore trust in the public.  Leaders must display behaviors free from agitation, disorientation and anger, instead show strong tranquility free from anxiety and fear.  As John Maxwell would say , “leaders must not lead and moan at the same time.”  When people see that their leaders display behaviors of strength, the people with begin to trust and take on these transmittable  behaviors.  People are influenced by what they see not what they are told. To quote John Maxwell leadership is influence nothing more and nothing less.   

James Allen, said “the more tranquil a man becomes, the greater it is his success, he’s a influence , his powers for good, calmness of mine is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.“

This past few weeks were crazy there were no, this was so wherever totally took everybody by surprise, preparedness wasn’t our strong point and calmness was not present amongst the chaos.  Therefore it triggered the behavior of total selfishness within individuals that did not care for their fellow man.

What happens in the United States was a trust problem which displays negative behavioral problems.  Leaders need to,

1.  Restore the trust of the people. Right now their don’t trust the government to make the right decision and have a handle on this epidemic.

2. Show people that their leaders are in control of their of the issues surrounding this epidemic and a willingness to share information regardless if it’s good or bad.  People want to know about the progress of the virus.

 3. Restore the people’s trust back in the government as leading the way in sharing information, keep them up to date on the cure and be upfront and sensible about the true picture of the looming crisis.  

The solution is to control the chaos by the display of confidence and strength.  The restoration of trust of the public.  A control on issuing the essential items and a willingness to share information at State and Local levels on how to obtain essential items need to get through this crisis.  This is the bottom-line of Mark Weitzman, paper of “Price distortion and shortage deformation, or what happened to the Soap” written in 1991.

So my story doesn’t end there I’m still waiting for the abundance of supplies to fill the shelves to me that will take another week or so while these control measures are being implemented. Not saying that this will eradicate the shortage problem but at least the shelves won’t be as bare as I saw them a few weeks ago. What are your thoughts and comments on this matter? Am I far off?

Derrick Darden PhD