by Dianna Flett

I often ask the girls at the start of a series of Girl Smarts® workshops:

“How many of you want to be leaders?”

Many of them raise their hands, but some don’t. I then ask:

“How many of you think you might like to have a family when you grow up?”

Almost all the hands shoot up. We discuss the importance of the leadership mothers, fathers and caregivers provide. We want our girls to recognize that “everyday leadership” is an important trait to develop in life. Everyday leadership is not about running a corporation, being the lead on a big project or taking the hill on some distant battlefield. It’s about doing your best all the time and stepping up when you need to.

We need to step up now.

There is no right or wrong way to process this situation emotionally. Because I may have one level of response, it doesn’t make yours right or wrong. I’ve read a lot of social media posts where one person tells another person they are overreacting or they need to calm down. No one has the right to tell you how you feel is wrong. You are allowed to have all the feelings and take a moment to process this.

Many of us are mourning the loss of what we thought were guaranteed traditions for our children. We won’t have traditional experiences with them, and it is unsettling. This Spring, at least, there will be no more sports or tournaments, no graduations, no school plays, and no dances. That’s where we are right now and I for one am sad, angry, worried and scared.

Deep down, and for many reasons, we are all unsettled. I am passing on a several things I’ve learned from years of disciplined responses to crisis situations in the Army. I have referred to these military lessons more than I thought I would as a parent.

  1. The first report is always wrong. So much information is pounding us from sources around the globe. In the heat of the moment first reports are almost always wrong. It takes time for things to develop and real facts to show themselves. If you hear something, try to wait until the first report is processed and a total picture emerges before reacting.
  2. Validate your sources of information. Uncle Joe’s Facebook page is NOT good intel unless you read the article and trace it back to the originator. Then determine if you trust the originator and if they too are a good source. Sensational headlines are there to lure you in. Don’t buy into it. Stay especially vigilant when sharing political and medical posts.
  3. Hug your buddy. Not literally, that violates social distancing; but it’s important to be kind with your words and deeds. We are not used to being in one space 24/7. We need to ensure we treat those we love most with care. Say “please” when you ask someone to pass the salt, and “thank you” when someone does. Our manners should not be reserved for strangers.
  4. Improve your foxhole every day. Regardless of where you are, or where you live, do something to improve your space every day. Make it stronger, cleaner and more functional. Since we must stay inside for long periods of time, we have a good chance to clean out the cobwebs. Perhaps you can get a start on yard work, cleaning out closets, and making repairs. Even if it’s making your bed every morning, you can accomplish something during your time at home.
  5. Practice good hygiene. I’ve laughed at the jokes about changing from your day pajamas into your night pajamas, and while those jokes are funny, we have to make sure we’re taking good care of ourselves. That care should extend to both your physical and mental health. Clear out the negative thoughts from your mind and work your body physically so you are strong for the next fight. Keep a journal. Walk the dog. Do one legged balancing stands during the day. It’s easy to allow the routine to become monotony, the monotony to become lethargy and lethargy to become physical and mental illness.
  6. Check your battle buddy. We’re all in this together so reach out to a friend with a call or a video chat cup of coffee. See how they are doing and just listen. You don’t have to solve this, none of us can do that individually, but collectively we can hear one another’s concerns and if you have tackled and solved something, let the other person know. I forgot I could use bleach for disinfecting counter surfaces. I have a lot of bleach but few Lysol products. My niece reminded me I could find canned tomatoes in the grocery aisles where Goya brand foods are sold. Together we are stronger.
  7. Life is hard; it’s harder if you’re stupid. We’ve all read the things we should do and the things that are out of bounds. Don’t be flippant with your health or anyone else’s. If your child hasn’t been through this type of storm, remind them you have; 9/11, bird flu, and Ebola to name a few. Remind them to stay smart. We need everyone’s support to keep our families healthy.

Everyday leadership is about parenting right here, right now, and the difference you make by setting a tone of strength and security with your words and actions. We have the right to feel what we are feeling; and there will be ups and downs. With that in mind, rising to the occasion and showing calm, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership is what our families need and deserve from us.

One of my favorite quotes is by American writer Tom Peters. He said:

“Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.”

It’s time to create tomorrow’s leaders. Let’s do this.