How much has your personal or professional life changed in the last eight weeks?

Are you working from home?

Not working?

A part-time teacher / part-time parent?

Starting to get screen headaches?

Zoom overload?

Stressed? Anxious?

Missing friends and family?

Maybe all of the above.

This is undoubtedly a challenging time for every segment of our beautiful community.  We may not be all be impacted equally, but we are all impacted.   And to suggest that we are in the midst of an unprecedented societal and economic shift is probably an understatement.

There are bright spots and important lessons we can glean from the months before Coronavirus and since.

While planning for a different and unexpected 2020 and 2021 and having an opaque lens by which to forecast the future, I realized two things –

1) nothing will be perfect and

2) different does not need to mean bad.

Southeast Michigan and Oakland County have some of the best resources and leaders a community could want.  In the weeks and months ahead, as we look towards an uncertain future, it may be time to reflect on past leadership lessons with a different, yet optimistic view.

Recently, I pulled out some older reading material that I hadn’t yet had the chance to read – I know that can’t be the only person with a pile of “to read articles” that grows exponentially over time and never seems to get my fullest attention.

In the pile was a 2020 economic forecast for the Southeast Region, a piece on Innovation and Disruption in the Economy. Lastly, an article on Leadership Comes in Many Different Forms.

My first inclination was to toss it all – so much has changed – so much is new and different; I was convinced that these articles couldn’t be relevant today.

Instead of cleaning it out, I asked –

Why did I keep these articles around?
What was so important to me?
What can I learn – personally and professionally?

It turned out to be a very positive exercise.

I was able to reframe how I viewed the short and long-term future of our region.

Innovation is in the DNA of Southeast Michigan and Disruption is nothing new to the Midwestern work ethic.

These were a normal part of our lexicon before the global pandemic and they remain today.

We see innovation demonstrated daily.

·      OEMs rapidly switching to manufacture much-needed PPE to help protect the front-line medical staff and works deemed essential;
·      Our region’s educators reinventing and innovating new ways to connect, educate and feed our children remotely.

Southeast Michigan has only been my home for five years, but it doesn’t take long to see that any disruption to our daily lives is met with acts of support and protection.

As the first days and weeks in March turned into months of uncertain change, we became witnesses to daily examples of Servant Leadership.

These collective and unselfish efforts to connect, celebrate, support, and care for one another demonstrate the Trust, Respect, Communication, Leadership and Common Direction of putting the needs of others first.

Whether it was shopping or checking in on an elderly neighbor, leaving a care basket for a friend, spending hours making masks to protect others in our community, or painting our doorways in a sign of solidarity and thanks to our health care workers, each is a beautiful reminder that servant leadership is part of the foundation of this community.

What started as a routine exercise to clean up my desk and “push through” to my next work objective, instead offered me a respite and an opportunity to reframe my perceptions – and I am grateful that I did.

We still have a long road ahead of us, and there is still much work to be done. Nevertheless, our extended community possesses resiliency, compassion, grace and community spirit that is the foundation of our future success.