Lockdowns, meeting restrictions, job losses, despair, pain, agony, and even death…………

When Covid-19 hit us, it was like being struck by a tsunami where no one knew how to act; it was a mega-disaster by all measures.

In any disaster management scenario, the first and foremost element that determines the successful handling of the situation is how good and responsive the leadership is.

The UAE government stands out as an exceptional example of successful leadership during challenging times.

A careful look at the steps required to be taken will make it clear that it takes courage to step up leadership and couple it with a sense of responsibility towards the people or organizations who have placed their trust in you.

1- Get ready:

This transpires subconsciously once the first conscious step is taken to become a leader. If we look at any leadership journey, be it of an individual, organization, or even a country, we find that readiness is an automatic skill that kicks in; it comes for free with the decision to be a leader.

2- Observe:

In challenging times most people tend to make hasty decisions that often give rise to negative consequences. In any challenging situation, it is important to stay calm and do a situation analysis. It could be as simple as pausing, talking to the concerned people, and sizing up the situation. At the same time, a quick scan of the resources available must also be done. A gradual build-up of preventive measures as we continue to monitor and observe would provide the best solutions.

3- Plan:

Once we gain the skill of readiness and the necessary knowledge to understand and size up the situation, resources become and will remain the center of attention for the duration of the challenge. This is when the continuous planning cycle begins. Although the challenge may subside at some point, the planning will and needs to continue because this plan and these experiences become the basis for solutions to future challenges. Hint: other challenges will come in our path; that’s life.

4- Get up and get going:

Once the foundation is laid, it is time to get into action, action that takes flexibility, stamina, and strength. One piece of advice that I have received from my mentors is that once the wheel starts rolling, it should not stop. It can be slowed down a little to re-observe and re-plan, but it must never be allowed to stop.

The UAE government followed and is still following these steps very meticulously, and that has led to the successful management of the pandemic. The learning curve has been steep and costly, both economically as well as in terms of human lives. There was hardly anything that the UAE could have done differently, given the geographical location and the size of the expatriate population living here.

The resilience of Toastmasters is not different. Soon after the pandemic hit, the clubs started getting ready to shed the stigma that club meetings can only happen face-to-face. Gone are the days when we believed and emphatically announced that nothing can replace face-to-face meetings, for we have found a way not only to survive but thrive in the virtual world.

The rise to the challenge happened only because the members were trained to be ready through their leadership journey with Pathways. Observing is not alien to Toastmasters as we have constantly been learning to evaluate and listen. Our planning skills received the opportunity to get polished when we transitioned to online meetings and conferences. We certainly got up and got going, and so did the Board of Directors and World Head Quarters.

It is time to look at challenges as irreplaceable leadership opportunities. We need to endeavour to observe, learn and respond to situations with a positive outlook and be convinced that the unimaginable is possible even if extreme adversity looms above our heads.

Ironic as it may seem, just like every other challenge that has overwhelmed us, Covid deserves a Thank You for showing us new paths and stretching our leadership to new heights. But Thanks can only come if and when we have survived. And that highlights an important point – leadership needs to survive any challenge, and so begins the cycle.

Some of you may refuse to acknowledge that Covid has taught us because of the havoc it has created. But in situations beyond our control, where hardly anything can be done, the only option left is to Be Ready, Observe, Plan, and Get Going.

About the Author – Col. Mohammed Murad, DTM (written in 2021)

Past International President of Toastmasters International, DTM Mohammed Murad is an entrepreneur and manages four companies.  After a 20-year career with the Dubai Police Force, he retired as a Lt. Colonel in 2003. He has more than 27 years of experience in the fields of emergency medical services management, human resources development and strategic planning. He holds two Master’s degrees, an MBA and a Master’s in Quality Management (MQM), both from the University of Wollongong, Australia.

About the Author – Col. Mohammed Murad, DTM

Past International President of Toastmasters International, DTM Mohammed Murad is an entrepreneur and manages four companies.  After a 20-year career with the Dubai Police Force, he retired as a Lt. Colonel in 2003. He has more than 27 years of experience in the fields of emergency medical services management, human resources development and strategic planning. He holds two Master’s degrees, an MBA and a Master’s in Quality Management (MQM), both from the University of Wollongong, Australia.

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