When one of America’s greatest lyricists wrote Where Have All The Flowers Gone, he was only 36 years old and an already accomplished musical talent. Pete Seeger had that way about him.
Originally mistaken as a protest anthem about the Vietnam War, the song was written in 1955 and was derived from a book about Russian Cossacks titled All Flows The Don. But now, as COVID-19 is rightfully scaring the living daylights out of us, what’s not flowing is the communication from CEOs.
When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?
The song is actually about the cycles of history that reoccur over and again which accounts for apocryphal adages like, “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.” So, here we go again, just as it was in 2008, the CEO great disappearing act revisited, redux part deuce, déjà vu adieu.
There are three types of leaders; no, it’s not that simple if you’re thinking good, bad and somewhere in-between. Let me say that there are three types of proficient leaders; innovators, managers, and encouragers. But the most brilliant possess a slice of each quality plus one other critical accomplishment.
They face our fears head-on. They focus on resolve, not retreat.
Their silence is deafening and worrisome. Any person worth their salt in crisis management knows that humanity is what’s needed, not institutionalism. On September 29, 1982, three people died in Chicago from cyanide-laced Tylenol. With a deft-hand and no pause, Johnson & Johnson’s CEO, James Burke, ordered all bottles of the analgesic removed from all shelves around the world, despite having a market share greater than its nearest four competitors.
He was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He should have been awarded the Medal of Honor for arguably saving hundreds of lives.
For all CEOs across America, regardless of the size of your company or the industry you serve, now is the time to be front and center, to not just step forward, but to step-up more than you ever imagined possible. Communicate with passion and empathy, but play it straight and be honest. Remember, if you always tell the truth, as corny as it sounds, you’ll never forget what you said. And lastly, don’t make the same mistakes that were made in the past and dig your own grave.
Where have all the CEOs gone? Look-up the closing lyrics to the song, hopefully that won’t be you.