Leadership Lessons We MUST Learn
from Locking Down a Country.
If you’re a leader, you face regular challenges. It goes with the territory. Problems arise. Timeframes are short. Resources seem limited. The stakes are high. The fallout from failure looms large. You feel the urgency to act. You fear what might happen if you don’t act. The people you lead are clamoring for a decision. Ignorant opinons abound. Seems everyone has a vested interest, ulterior motive and a slick argument. The crowd all seems to be stampeding in one direction.
Sound familiar? Chances are you’re in that situation right now as a consequence of the decisions made by many state governors and some city mayors to lock down America, close businesses and restrict Constitutional freedoms in an ill-considered response to the corona virus.
Elected officials were in a tough spot back in March. No argument, it was a challenging moment in time. However, the flawed decisions they made have crippled America. But this could have been predicted. They fell victim to TINA.
Beware - TINA Can Get You, Too. Who, or what, is TINA, you ask? Well, TINA is an acronym that stands for:
“There Is No Alternative.”
TINA strikes in moments of challenge. You’re stuck in the middle of a problem and desperate to get out. Fear rears its ugly head. Your stomach is in knots. Your pulse is racing. Someone suggests a solution. It sounds good. You don’t have a better idea at the moment. The pressure is on. Leaders aren’t supposed to panic, but, truth be told, you panic. You speak those fateful words that will come back to haunt you and those you lead: “We’ve just gotta do this...There Is No Alternative.”
We just watched this happen with our elected officials. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s presume there was no conspiracy, politics, personal aspiration, research-funding considerations or ill-intent. Let’s presume they are simply good people, trying to do good work. But, if that’s the case, I contend they panicked and TINA got them. When faced with the threat of the corona virus, they rapidly made the fateful decision that there was simply no alternative but to lock down America and handcuff business. That decision will have devastating and crippling consequences. Conse-quences that should have and easily could have been anticipated and avoided. But TINA got us.
We’re all suseptible to falling victim to TINA. It could happen to you. There’s a good chance TINA is after you right now in the fallout we face from lockdown. Before we look at how to guard yourself against a TINA attack, let’s look at what happens after TINA strikes. These things are so predictable, we can call them laws.
The Law of False Dichotomy. A dichotomy is a polarizing contrast we construct between two ideas, approaches or values. The false dichotomy asserts there are only two mutually exclusive and opposing alternatives, and we can only choose one. This leads to the flawed conclusion that There Is No Alternative. Often the choices presented are emotionally charged, values-driven and passionately argued, such as those presented to us in the COVID crisis: Life vs. Death. Health vs. Money. Safety vs. The Economy. The scarcity mindset (or un-seen agendas) behind a false juxtaposition limits our ability to seek broader, more global solutions that could provide approaches to address all considerations, producing unity and collaboration, instead of division.
The Law of Commitment. Once a TINA driven decision is made, there’s an emotional commitment made. We become invested in the chosen course of action. The language of commitment is familiar:
“There’s no turning back. We just gotta do what we gotta do. Hell or high water, we have to keep going. After all, a leader has to stick with her decisions. Quitters never win. Besides, what will people think?”
Unfortunately, the Law of Commitment often keeps us from seeing our mistakes and recognizing the adverse consequences as a result. If we do see our decision is bad, we often won’t admit it. We pridefully die on a hill we should’ve abandoned long before.
The Law of Consistency. Closely related to the Law of Commitment is the Law of Consistency, which requires us to act in accordance with the case we’ve declared. Once we’ve made our case for a course of action, including declaring there is no alternative, we feel immense pressure to act in integrity with our declarations, even if our decisions and declarations are wrong.
CYA - The Law of Justification. The more apparent it becomes our decision was wrong, or that the negative outcomes of the decision are too great, the more tendency there is for us to justify our character, position and decision. There’s a scramble to Cover Your Ass-umptions.
The Law of Unintended Consequences. TINA driven decisions usually have unintended consequences. Sometimes they are good, sometimes bad, but because we failed to engage in a rigorous decision making process, we end up surprised by the consequences. But most of them could have been anticipated, avoided or designed around. The results of lockdown in response to COVID-19 are: massive fear, staggering unemployment rates, economic depression, countless bankruptcies, mental illness, addiction, heartbreaking abuse, suicide, anxiety, divisiveness and a welfare mindset. All these terrible outcomes could have easily been predicted with just a little thought. Instead, the most flawed public policy decisions in American history were mandated. TINA got us.
There is Always an Alternative. As leaders, we can’t allow ourselves to get TINA-fied. The ramifications of flawed decision making are simply too damaging for those we lead. So, how do we avoid this pitfall? Here are a few suggestions.
First of all, whenever you hear the words: “There is No Alternative.” or “We have no choice,” huge red flags should go up. There is always an alternative. There are always options. Part of a leader’s job is to look for options, to seek clarity and to cast proper vision. An ancient proverb says: “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” Succumbing to panic is an example of casting off restraint. Let’s seek wisdom before taking rash actions.
Beware the Dichotomy Trap. Step back from the right vs. wrong, either/or, false choice arguments and look for a larger solution that encompasses all concerns.
Slow Down. My cabinetmaker father used to say, “If you won’t take enough time to do it right, you’ll waste a whole lot more time cleaning up your messes.” Closely related was his instruction to always: “Measure twice...cut once.” Rushing critical decisions leads to tragic mistakes.
Deliberate. One pronounciation of deliberate means “steady and measured.” Another means to seek wise council and to discuss problems from a variety of perspectives. The pressure to succumb to TINA causes us to forget that: “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Likewise, to an epidemiologist, everything looks like an epidemic. Deliberating on diverse viewpoints in a steady, measured way produces the creative options that TINA blocks.
Ask Better Questions. The quality of an answer is always dependent on the quality of the question. Here’s an example.
Question: “How much is government willing to spend to defeat the corona virus?”
Answer: “$4 Trillion.”
Question: “What’s the best way to use that $4 Trillion?”
Answer: Most of us could think up many options superior to wasting all those tax dollars in a futile attempt to clean up the devastating mess caused by lockdown.
Proceed Pragmatically. Pragmatic leaders deal in conversations of cause and effect, actions and likely reactions. They evaluate each potential course of action in light of its possible consequences. The pragmatist is interested in taking actions that produce optimum outcomes. Pragmatists know TINA is a lie. Now that we're all in a tough spot, instead of TINA, let's embrace the truth of TIAA.
TIAA: There Is Always An Alternative. Let’s find the best one.
If not us, who? If not now, when? If not...why not?
I’m flipping the pages of the May 4, 2020 Time Magazine, which offers up the opinions of Time’s selection of 100 thought leaders, all of whom were tasked to share their perspectives on how we are to find hope in this season of health concerns and economic devastation. Included in the roster of wise messengers are Angelina Jolie, Shawn Mendez, Misty Copeland and Lil Nas X.
Although I don’t know any of the 100 notable contributors personally and have nothing against any of them, I was struck by the sheer hopelessness of the submissions purportedly offered to produce hope. Somehow a recommendation to “watch the Great British Bake Off as a welcome distraction during these difficult times,” seems uncompelling. Obviously, Time Magazine is a secular publication, but I looked in vain for the voice of hope available through Jesus’ Church. His voice was absent. As are we, His disciples.
The voice of spiritual leadership across the country is strangely missing from the public dialog. Unfortunately, that’s consistent with the observation my non-Christian friends make, that the Church is invisible, irrelevant and impotent. Enough. It’s time to change all that.
How, you ask? Here’s my answer. It’s time, and past time, that we reopen the local churches.
The Arguments. I know this is controversial. I expect pushback. I know the arguments against opening the churches. Some come from government. Some from cultural sources. But most of them we made up ourselves out of fear of man, or fear of a bug, neither of which are Biblical.
“It’s hopeless. Mainstream and Social Media control the messages and are biased against Christianity.” Forget it. The early Church did not have media. It was grievously opposed. The message of the Gospel spread person to person. At the time of his death, Jesus had a few followers. 400 years later, approximately half the Roman Empire was Christian. That’s thirty million Christians in 400 years. The Good News spreads faster than any virus…assuming people are exposed.
“Turn the other cheek. Submit to rulers and authorities.” I’m sure that there are learned theologians that can make a case that Christians are to not make waves, not antagonize the government and should simply stay quietly in our prayer closets waiting on God to make all things new. I don’t buy it. Passively ceding the power and authority given to us by Christ to the world is not the message of the Bible.
“It’s not loving or Christian to willfully infect people with the virus.” That’s a false construct and strawman. It’s a trick question. Jesus got asked trick questions. When asked if it was right to pay taxes, He responded, “Give Caesar what is his and give God what is His.” In the last few weeks, we gave what is God’s to Caesar. Opening the doors of the churches for people to choose to enter, or not (the same as always), is not willfully infecting people with the virus. And who says that a virus is more powerful than the Spirit and Presence of God? Certainly, not us. Let each person prayerfully take responsibility for their own life. Attend or don’t attend. The doors should always be open for those who need us and want to come.
“If we open up against a governor’s orders, we might get arrested. We might lose a tax-exemption or our church.” Those things might happen. They might not. But if they do, then let’s stand on our State and Federal Constitutional rights of speech, press, religion, assembly, equal treatment under the law, and due process. We must retake the ground we gave up. We will prevail. As we should. It might get uncomfortable for those of us in the battle, but it’s a fight worth fighting. The reason that churches are closed right now is because we closed them. If they were open, people would come.
“The Church is not a building.” This is another smoke screen and cop-out. There is enormous value in gathering together to worship and pray in person. Online TV church is not the same as real community, any more than video calls with my 90-year-old mom substitute for a real hug.
Bottom line - we’ve been duped, fooled, and distracted. The enemy’s most insidious and effective arguments contain just enough elements of plausibility to twist the Word of God slightly, and plant the seed of doubt: “Did God really say…?”
Enough. It’s time to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It’s time to open the churches. It’s time for the Church to lead the recovery of our confidence, our courage, our culture and our economy. Someone must break the pervasive grip of fear. Someone must go first. That’s us.
Benefits of Leading. There are at least four outcomes we can expect from the reopening of our churches.
1. Highlight the real battle. The battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Make no mistake, when the Church moves to reopen, the battle will rage. So, we put on the full armor of God and go to war.
2. Preserve our rights. Founding fathers established a Biblically-based Constitution and Bill of Rights that we have fought hard to preserve. We must not abdicate now. If we don’t speak up and defend our rights, who will? None are better equipped to fight for freedom than the millions of Americans who remain Christ followers. They just need our leadership.
3. Do what the Church is called to do. For thousands of years, in times of plague or any other trial, the Church stepped up to serve and care for the broken and hurting, frequently at great personal risk to the people ministering. But we stepped back. It’s time to get in the ring.
4. Demonstrate our faith through action. People are watching. If our behavior is indistinguishable from non-believers, we forfeit our influence. We can model courage and faith, instead of fear. We say God has the power to protect us. Let’s trust it. We say God has the power to heal…and has given it to us. So, let’s heal. We say our destiny is secure. Let’s show it by bringing rationality to the COVID discussion. Chances are, we won’t get the virus. If we do, it’s probably not going to be a big deal. If it is serious, it’s likely we’ll recover like we have from other illness. There is, of course, a tiny chance we might die. But there’s a 100% chance we are going to die anyway in God’s timing. If we’re saved, we know we get to be with God for eternity. What’s to fear? But talk is cheap. Faith and confident assurance is revealed by our actions.
The Church is Essential. The Church has never been more essential. The people we are called to serve are hurting. They are lonely, anxious, depressed, abused, and suicidal. They’re worried, scared and downright terrified of the virus. They are living in deep fear of losing their jobs, income and businesses. They are questioning their identities and the meaning of life. They are coming face to face with their own mortality and the question of, “Then what?” The government can’t fix this. The private sector can’t fix this. Our country desperately needs what only the Church can lovingly deliver…the message of the peace and hope of Jesus Christ... face to face. In person. The fields are ripe.
Let’s reopen the churches and together do the work of the Church.
The AVADA Blog provides real-world insights into issues of faith in the marketplace. Many are derived from discussions in 10x Catalyst Groups, which are comprised of Christian CEOs and entrepreneurs. Please check out a past blog or two and if you find the content relevant to your business and faith, please subscribe on the Contact Page. Contact