Leadership for the Greater Good: Reflections on the 2020 Pandemic

We are living in an unprecedented time. While none of us have experienced the specific details of the challenges before us, we are not without resources to help see us through. ILA has invited well-known and respected thought leaders from around the world to share their leadership knowledge, wisdom, and viewpoint to inform and inspire us as we continue our collective work.

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A Global Crisis and the Recalibration of Humanity

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(22 April 2020)

by Corey Seemiller, Faculty Member, Leadership Studies in Education and Organizations, Wright State University, USA

Many people do great things for others. They serve, they volunteer, and they help. They give, they love, and they work together to solve problems. But, it seems that in recent times, many of us have instead turned inward, focusing on our own successes, our own monetary gains, and our own wellbeing…even in some cases, at the expense of others.

I have spent the last seven years studying and writing about youth, teens, and young adults. I have been moved by their call for all of us to focus outward, where our care for the collective would outweigh our individual desires. This call is even more pronounced when it comes to those in leadership positions. A vast number of young people believe leaders today are profiting off the planet, enacting restrictive and discriminatory policies, and "un"leveling the economic playing field to favor the wealthy. With these sentiments, it's no wonder they are exasperated by the notion of leadership as it currently stands.

While many leaders may appear disconnected from humanity, humanity itself has emerged as the new leader. The world's crisis has caused a recalibration in the human spirit where everyday people are focusing outward and stepping up as our leaders. Whether it is the healthcare workers who are putting themselves at risk every day, educators who are finding new ways to teach students online, parents who are trying to balance working while home schooling, or businesses and nonprofits filling the gaps where help is needed, we see humanity recalibrating.

Even more, we see individuals volunteering to pack food for those who desperately need it, giving blood, and fostering animals to help offset the burden on shelters. Artists are offering free concerts from their living rooms, and educators are sharing their insight with free webinars. Youth today are stepping in as well by printing 3-D masks, delivering groceries for those who need assistance, and creating public service announcements to help inform others about COVID-19.

All of this has me thinking, just like our young people already have been, why haven't we been doing this all along? Why did it take a crisis for human beings to give, help, donate, and serve like they are today? Will our "leaders" take a cue from the contributions and sacrifices from everyday people? How will this rise in humanity leadership shape the way young people view leadership?

I do hope that after all of this subsides, that the generous and beautiful nature of humanity that has emerged will continue to be the leadership we need for generations to come.

Corey Seemiller Dr. Corey Seemiller is a faculty member in the Department of Leadership Studies in Education and Organizations at Wright State University. Her books include The Student Leadership Competencies Guidebook, Generation Z Goes to College, Generation Z Leads, Generation Z: A Century in Making, and Generation Z Learns. She has served as a co-chair for the National Leadership Symposium and the Leadership Education Academy, and is currently an associate editor for the Journal of Leadership Studies. Corey is a member of the ILA and active in the Youth Leadership Member Committee.

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