Although I've been in South Florida since the late '90s, growing up in Ireland means I usually look forward enthusiastically to celebrating St. Patrick's Day with family and friends. But of course, 2020 (and likely 2021) is going to be very different as the COVID-19 global pandemic has changed all of our lives.
Across the country and around the globe bars and restaurants that are usually filled with people drinking green beer and eating corned beef and cabbage will be closed with their employees facing an uncertain future. Airlines, cruise operators, hotels, and others in the transportation and tourism industries are dealing with a massive downturn that dramatically affects their workforce. Many businesses are suggesting or mandating that their people work from home. And for many others, they have to stay home anyway to look after their young kids as schools everywhere shutter their doors.
Now more than ever is a time for business leaders to step up and over the past few days, I found myself wondering about the leadership skills and traits of St. Patrick - a man who lived over 1,500 years ago, who inspired and led others and became a revered figure in Ireland and around the world.
Here are five things St. Patrick did that we can all use to become better managers, leaders, and people. Not just now as we deal with the issues brought on by Coronavirus, but each and every day.
According to the legend, he heard the appeals of the people of Ireland that they were in need of help and even though he had initially been brought to Ireland against his will, he returned because he wanted to help them. A great leader will always be there for his or her people no matter the circumstances...and right now those circumstances are life-changing.
He encouraged all-comers and both listened attentively and had a candid dialogue with them. There was no forcing of ideas but rather a philosophy of helping others understand his messages. Managers who encourage open, two-way feedback will earn the trust and respect of their team. In uncertain and unnerving times ahead, it will be imperative for those in positions of authority to listen to the concerns of their people and discuss how they and the organization are working to make things better for everyone.
He encouraged not just the poorer people of Ireland to follow his ways but also the (sometimes derided) chieftains and kings of different regions. There was no conflict involved but rather an understanding of differences and the ability to influence and persuade everyone to enthusiastically join and work together. When leaders use encouragement to motivate the workforce they are much more likely to both understand and get on board with the company objectives and decisions.
Teach by Showing (not just talking)
In addition to his words, he often used real-life examples and symbols to aid in his teachings, most notably using the Shamrock (which has since become synonymous with Ireland) to explain and demonstrate his doctrine. We all know the phrase that a good manager 'Knows the way, shows the way and goes the way' and by being active rather than just giving directions (or orders as some might see it) he or she will get their message across in a way that is much more receptive to the employees.
Remove Barriers to Success
Ok, just for fun (and we certainly can use a little humor amidst all the bad news right now) we will also throw in there that he supposedly drove all the snakes out of Ireland. A good leader understands that there may be a bad apple in the pack or some other reason(s) inhibiting progress and will do whatever they can to rid the organizations of these hindrances. These are tough times for a lot of people so when the leader makes a conscious effort to help their people it is very much appreciated.
Please stay safe, check in with and help your family, friends, and co-workers....and have a very Happy Saint Patrick's Day.