COVID-19 Resource Center
COVID-19 Resource Center
April 14, 2020
2 min read

BLOG: Be proactive and lead during the COVID-19 pandemic

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by John D. Kelly IV, MD

The COVID-19 pandemic is a unique time for all of us. Never has there been more downtime experienced by Americans of this generation. This crisis presents ongoing challenges to every one of us; however, COVID 19 is also a summons for us to marshal and awaken the leader within us. We have a choice: We can passively be a spectator and watch the suffering manifest, or we can lead others – and ourselves – out of this debacle.

Leadership is not some abstract or vague concept. It is simply the act of promotion of some common good or purpose. It is other centered and is predicated on the wellbeing of those you lead. Leadership has no agenda other than the common good and is cloaked in humility, honor and integrity. I present the following opportunities these times present for leadership.

Lead oneself

Self-mastery is a necessary virtue to effectively lead others. There are indeed many co-dependent leaders who need power or approval to satisfy their ego. With rare exception, these leaders live less than honorable lives and lack peace.

The great battle strategist General Robert E. Lee always favored commanders who had their own personal affairs in order. Lee knew that one couldn’t give to others what one did not have.

Only when one has an effective command over passion and desires can true common good be promoted. Applications can be:

  • Use this downtime to work on your personal mission statement;
  •  Identify a particular vice or personal struggle and face it head on;
  •  Forgive yourself and others more as you extend compassion; and
  •  Reconnect with your higher power and release your personal baggage for healing.

Lead families

Many are experiencing cabin fever and undoubtedly have the stress of confinement. These peculiar times present the opportunity to lead your family out of the drudgery of self-containment.

Your families are looking to you to help them through these days of “house arrest.” You have a choice: Let this play out and become “lived” by distractions, or establish some action steps to restore a semblance of normalcy to family life. Applications can be:

  •  Establish some family routines. My wife and I take daily walks and watch church services on the computer. Encourage regular bedtimes and ensure family dining;
  •  Discourage excessive media exposure. Choose exercise or family games; and
  •  Use this time to have crucial conversations with children and loved ones.

Lead colleagues

One does not need a title to lead. The mere presence of becoming a positive influence is leadership in its very essence.

Some of my younger colleagues are undoubtedly more anxious than more established surgeons. This is the time to reach out and offer a kind word or mere show of support.

In addition, now is the time to engage the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons or your specialty society and ask how you may be of service. Applications can be:

  •  Participate in department televisits or conference calls. Be a light, not a critic;
  •  Offer support to departmental or hospital leadership. The stress department chairs and chief operating officers are experiencing now is incalculable;
  •  Reassure your staff, residents and fellows that you are doing everything in your power to ease the rocky road ahead; and
  •  Text or email frontline physicians, such as intensivists and anesthesiologists, and show appreciation for their courage.

We all have a choice in these trying times. We can be a passive observer and be “lived” by media exposure or other distractions, or we can awaken our innate leadership skills and help mitigate the suffering that this unique contagion has inflicted upon the world.


The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is all about making the lives of your team members or workers better.

—Tony Dungy