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Leadership in the face of crisis

NIAGARA, Wis. — I am inspired by our current situation to address the topic of leadership in today’s column. We have all been around long enough to have been exposed to both good and bad leaders throughout history. If we did not experience them in our own lifetime, we learned about various world leaders in school or by talking to our parents and grandparents who actually lived through those historical times. The outcomes of specific critical events throughout history can illuminate a variety of figures now who are readily accepted as significant leaders. And we can all identify the good leaders we have been privileged to know throughout our own careers. An overview of our country’s history, as well as our own personal history, will help us identify those qualities that define a good leader.

My mother, born in 1927, was a child throughout the Great Depression and then came of age during World War II. Growing up, my siblings and I heard a lot about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Our mother once commented how strange it felt when FDR was no longer president because she had known no other leader throughout her formative years. Under his leadership, our country came out of the Great Depression thanks to the many social programs and job creation initiatives that were introduced during his 12 years in office. We all continue to benefit from the safety net of Social Security that FDR initiated when he was president.

For me, John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby loom large in my memory as inspirational leaders. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, I was in junior high school. I was in gym class fearing for my safety as I was convinced that at any minute we would be bombed. Throughout the Cold War years, we routinely had safety drills requiring us to shelter under our desks in grade school or walk to the locker rooms in high school to escape nuclear fallout.

These activities seem ludicrous now, but at the time they served to address our young fears by giving us action to take. In more recent history, I was so thankful for President Obama’s entrance into office in 2008. His calm, thoughtful approach to decision making and willingness to seek and use advice from experts saw us through the financial crisis of 2008.

We can all point to various times in our world’s history where the right leader seemed to be in the right place at the right time to turn the tide and lead us to safer ground. Our friends in England will certainly cite Winston Churchill and remember how they listened to every one of his speeches over the radio.

He both calmed and inspired. I suspect that many of Germany’s people feel the stabilizing effects of Angela Merkel’s leadership today while Europe faces the potential dangers of rising nationalism as more countries prefer to go their own way instead of staying in the EU.

In our own lives, I am sure we can all name the best and worst bosses we ever had. For me, one of the best bosses I ever had was on my first real full-time job at a local construction company. Despite my young age and lack of experience, she saw my potential. She made it clear what she expected, but she also made herself available to help her staff reach those goals. She said mistakes would be made, but that they should never leave the accounting department in which we worked and then made herself available to answer every question anyone had without judgment. She told me that this was especially important for me as payroll clerk because if I ever made an error on a paycheck, “every worker in the plant would be lined up outside my office on payday making me recalculate their checks.”

Sure enough, the very first payroll I did on my own was followed by one of the workers coming into my office with the plant manager claiming I had shorted him on his paycheck. My boss was right on their heels. She never said a word. She simply stood in the doorway and listened as I recalculated his paycheck in front of him, explaining as I went, and proved to him that his check was, indeed, correct. He apologized, and I thanked him, adding that he had worked hard and had every right to expect full and accurate pay in return. I breathed a sigh of relief as they all left my office. My boss returned and complimented me on how I had handled the situation. No one ever questioned their paychecks again, and I eventually inherited the oversight of health insurance, worker’s compensation insurance and every other personnel issue that directly affected the men and their families. I was there for nine years and learned a ton, thanks to a boss who took a chance on me and gave me all the time and support I needed to learn my job.

What are the characteristics of a leader? What constitutes solid leadership? I have included a few traits I believe are important, and I am sure you all have a few of your own you could add:

— A leader possesses a vision of the future and the ability to communicate that vision to the people. Consequently, everyone knows the ultimate destination.

— With a common vision in place, a leader inspires everyone to work together for the common good, forsaking petty grievances and personal interests for the well-being of the group’s common goal.

— A true leader anticipates challenges and sets solutions in place before the problems cause hardship and widespread disruption.

— A leader is intelligent in his or her own right but also recognizes the value of the knowledge of others who may have expertise he or she lacks.

— A leader is decisive while maintaining the ability to pull numerous pieces of knowledge together to formulate the absolute best solutions to the problem at hand.

— A leader is honest. He or she tells the truth, no matter how dire. Anything short of complete honesty does a disservice to the people who have a right to know and only leads to confusion and mistrust.

— A leader gives credit to his team and recognizes that success comes from the collective expertise and energy of the group.

— A leader is there to support his team; no one is ever out on the end of a limb alone.

— A leader takes responsibility for the outcomes of any incorrect decision while praising his people when things go well.

— A leader is empathetic; he or she appreciates the hardships of everyone and strives for decisions to be made for the greater good of all impacted. No true leader ever makes decisions that serve only his own personal interests.

So that brings us to today. Our country, indeed our world, seems to have turned upside-down overnight. The need for “social distancing” has compounded the fear most of us have about the virus that has totally consumed all of our news media. I watched a very interesting conversation on “60 Minutes” recently. They interviewed a retired Army general as part of their segment on leadership. The general said that “in times of great turmoil, leaders have emerged.” At this particular moment in our history, I am thankful for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has provided a consistently calm and truthful voice in this storm of uncertainty. I am also grateful to all of the frontline health care workers across our country who are doing their level best to care for us. Let’s all of us pledge to be leaders wherever we can in the coming months so we all come through on the other side of this historical challenge.

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The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus will not be published this week in an effort to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of our elderly population, daily life in our senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

All living facilities have closed their doors to public visitation, and the activity calendars have been modified to allow for one-to-one room visits only and individualized activities to keep residents engaged and active as much as possible while remaining within the health and safety guidelines provided by state health experts. Group games are being substituted with individualized activities residents can do in their respective rooms. Staff are providing supplies as well as “overhead announcement bingo and trivia” games and “hallway games” that can be played in individual rooms or by sitting within individual room doorways. YouTube and DVDs are being utilized to provide religious services. A big dose of gratitude and appreciation goes out to all senior care staff for their creativity, caring and perseverance through a difficult situation.

All senior centers also have been closed to any center-based activity. Until they reopen, no information is being published that talks about activities typically available at these centers. Meals continue to be delivered. Some centers also are preparing meals to be picked up. Menus are printed below for those centers who are either preparing takeout or providing home delivered meals. Questions can be directed to the individual centers at the numbers all listed below.

SENIOR CENTERS

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain

(906) 239-0278

Home-delivered and/or take-out meal menu for the week:

Monday: Salisbury steak, noodles, corn and Jell-O.

Tuesday: Sweet and sour pork, rice, Oriental vegetable blend.

Wednesday: Hamburger soup, biscuit and carrot salad.

Thursday: Smothered pork chops, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots.

Friday: Lemon pepper fish, rice and green beans

Any questions about the home-delivered meal program at this center can be directed to Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256

Felch Center

906-246-3559

Home-delivered and/or take-out meal menu for the week:

Monday: Sloppy Joe, potato wedges and winter blend vegetables.

Tuesday: Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, corn and salad.

Wednesday: Pepper steak, mashed potatoes and carrots.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only menu for the week:

Monday: Hamburger patty on a bun, lettuce and tomato, calico bean salad and fruit.

Tuesday: Chicken cordon bleu bake, dark green side salad, Brussel sprouts, pumpkin bars.

Wednesday: Beef stroganoff with mushrooms, buttered noodles, broccoli and peach cobbler with ice cream.

Thursday: Homemade pizza, dark green salad and pineapple.

Friday: Fish tacos with coleslaw, salsa, tomatoes, olives and onion, baked beans and bananas.

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980

For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu — home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu — home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu — home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu — home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Home-delivered and/or take-out meal menu for the week:

Monday: Cheeseburger casserole, dinner roll, peas and carrots.

Tuesday: Stuffed green peppers and mixed vegetables.

Wednesday: Fish, macaroni and cheese and mixed vegetables.

Thursday: Stuffed shells, wax beans and breadsticks.

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Meal site manager: Corrie Maule, 715-251-1603

Senior center director: Jill Anderson, 715-251- 4154

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining

906-563-8716

The center will remain closed; however, take-out meals will be prepared for pick-up beginning April 6. The menu will be published next week.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

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