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Monday, May 16, 2022

Leadership Wishes for All Leaders

With a New Year, a new president, and a new congress, 2021 is ripe for more enlightened leadership at every level. Here is my wish list for what we need to do:Manage the pandemic with a coordinated national plan. From both a health and economic perspective, getting the pandemic under control remains the most pressing crisis facing the United States. Tens of millions of us have been infected and hundreds of thousands have died from coronavirus. Millions are unemployed, and scores of businesses are on the brink of permanently closing (if they haven’t already).  It is long past time for a coordinated national plan based on science that will get the virus under control, and the economy humming. Business leaders especially need to set an example by taking the virus seriously and keeping their workers and customers safe if they want to remain open and viable. Those same business leaders also need to let their representatives know that they support a national response. The sooner we get this under control, the sooner we can all get back to some sense of normalcy.Support businesses, especially at the local level.

Locally owned and operated business firms need the support of elected officials and business organizations to survive and thrive. In the San Fernando Valley area, thousands of brick-and-mortar businesses have adapted successfully to the pandemic. For example, Porto’s Bakery in Burbank, Glendale and three other Southern California locations, adapted with contactless payment, curbside pick-up and shipping their products to customers. These businesses contribute to their communities by hiring workers, investing in local economies, making neighborhoods vibrant, and paying taxes.Emulate proven leaders.

Area business and government officials would be well-served to follow the sterling examples set by two sons of immigrants, former five-term L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (Jewish parents from Russia), who served nearly four decades as a dedicated public servant in the Valley area; and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (parents from Mexico), California’s next and first Latino U.S. Senator who grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley.

Yaroslavsky achieved a host of successes and worked with all sides on a wide range of important issues, including transportation, the environment, health care, police reform and the arts. Padilla already has blazed an enviable trail of policy achievements in voter turnout and election ballot safety, a smooth community college-to-CSU transfer pathway, cybersecurity advancements and government efficiency. Interestingly, both men were elected to the Los Angeles City Council at age 26. Both men also are outstanding role models for younger people seeking to work in public service or develop leadership skills for the future.

Restore civility and practice empathy. Along with the rights we enjoy in this country, comes responsibility. The rudeness and lying that have become the norm have got to stop. Instead of being viewed as weaknesses, traits such as civility, honesty, and integrity should be embraced and rewarded. Respect for your neighbor, regardless of where they are from, what they do for a living, or where they sit on the socio-economic scale, is one of the hallmarks of what makes us the United States – and separates us from the second-rate countries we are in danger of becoming. Business and political leaders are in a unique position to influence behavior and can have a profound impact on how we treat each other.Learn to compromise. Finding middle ground is not a weakness – it’s a strength. Learning to listen and agreeing to compromise is a sign of maturity, confidence, and intelligence. We need to focus on moving forward instead of staying stubbornly in place. Both business and political leaders must find the courage of their convictions to do the right thing, be guided by a moral compass, and speak truth to power. The “divide and conquer” mentality of the last four years has no place in a civilized society such as ours.

Address climate change and promote sustainability. We need to stop pretending climate change doesn’t exist. The recent statement from 42 U.S. companies urging that the United States rejoin the Paris Climate Accord is an important step. Local and global leaders need to embrace initiatives to address vulnerable coastal areas, better manage overgrown forests and build resilience to fires, storms and other weather events that are likely to worsen over time. If they want to be here for the long haul, businesses need to embrace sustainable practices and focus on achieving a triple bottom line: profit, people, and planet.

Respect the press. We need to stop scapegoating the press. Legitimate media plays a critical role in making sure leaders in all sectors of society are held responsible. We need to understand that the opinion “talking-heads” are just that and like social media sites, are not legitimate journalists who do an important job in reporting the facts, often risking their lives to do so. Sadly, people have lost respect for truth. Business leaders especially have a responsibility to help “right the ship of state” by setting a positive example, and not supporting news organizations and outlets that support conspiracy theories, engage in deceptive reporting, and fabricate falsehoods.There is much work to do in 2021. As John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” Ritch K. Eich, Ph.D., former chief of public affairs for Blue Shield of California, past chairman of Los Robles Hospital’s board of trustees, and captain, Naval Reserve (retired), has authored five books on leadership and served on a dozen boards of directors. His leadership has been recognized in the Congressional Record by former U.S. Senators Dan Coats and Richard Lugar. He lives  in Thousand Oaks.

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