Contrary to the belief of some of my friends, I am an optimist. I believe in the possibilities—all of them—the great ones and the not-so-great ones. I also believe that if I am open enough, I can anticipate all of the possibilities and respond more effectively. Even today; even in these uncertain times.
This pandemic reminds of the Biblical story of the giant Goliath. (Some would say it is a story about David, not Goliath.) First, let’s review the storyline. Goliath was a huge giant and warrior who at first seemed like he was undefeatable. He had all he needed to win, hands down. David was a young shepherd, who at first seemed to be in a wrong-place-wrong-time movie, with a bad ending! (I am not a Biblical scholar, so I may be missing a few key details, and if I am please forgive me.)
There is an opportunity for unconventional leadership that could change the future. In the face of COVID-19, it is offering each of us a chance to be like David. Wrong place, wrong time, and still win the battle! But how?
Just as the battle between David and Goliath brought out the worst in Goliath and the best in David, these uncertain times have the ability to bring out the best and the worst of people. Here are some of the ways we can all be more like David and allow any crisis, from a battle with a giant to a global pandemic, to bring out the best in us.
Have faith. One of the things that really helped David to defeat Goliath was his faith. David believed that this battle was about something bigger than him.
All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands. (1 Samuel 47)
David said, Look at my track record—I’ve killed lions and bears, and ultimately God delivered me from them and He will deliver me from this guy too. He relied on his faith. In many ways, when we are looking at the global pandemic right now, we have an opportunity to examine our faith and our past to draw enough inspiration and motivation for today. Faith is complete confidence in one’s trust in something or someone. Leaders have to find a place where their hope or faith can resonate with them. We must believe that what is happening around us is happening for a reason and that we can survive it.
Be yourself. David didn’t adorn himself with fancy armor or use a more powerful weapon than the ones he knew, and that is why he was able to defeat Goliath. In fact, King Saul tried to put armor on David but David refused it. He went with what he knew instead. He took his stick and stones into battle. I take that as David refusing to pretend he was something he was not. A lot of times, we will spend time in these conflicts trying to become something we are not. David must have thought, You know, I’m not the picture perfect warrior, but that’s ok.
Seize an opportunity. David was not the obvious candidate, but once it became clear to him, he was game. At first he thought he wasn’t big enough or in the right profession. All the men of Israel saw Goliath and fled. Nobody wanted to fight him. David saw an opportunity in a time of crisis, and that’s all David saw. He saw an opportunity. He understood what the reward would be, and he signed up for it. Today, we have this huge unknown out there, and we have to identify the opportunities despite those unknowns.
Amplify your strengths. What are you good at? For David, he was really good at throwing stones. This was an unconventional weapon, and he used this strength to his advantage. In times like this, it is about doing what you do really well even better. If you have excellent customer service, then engage the customers even more. Use that strength to your advantage. Don’t try to implement a new system right now, go to what you are good at. In times of trouble, leaders ought to rely less on tools and more on who they are. David won because of who he is, not because of his tools.
Have no fear. Look at what David did. He went to the battlefield as a child. He actually went unarmed into battle and didn’t sit back and wonder what to do, he just did it. It’s not about just showing up to the office, it’s about being where the action is. Leadership in a crisis is about saying I’m going to be where the duress is. It is about going to that conflict and leading from there. Success today is about not being afraid of the magnitude of it. It’s being fearless in the face of it.
Just remember that leadership in crisis is about drawing from all the things you have done and realizing all along that you’ve prepared for this time. David didn’t know that killing that lion and bear was preparing him for the battle with Goliath. But he looked back and thought, I’ve done this before.
A friend of mine called me back in early March, when all COVID-19 really started getting serious, and he affirmed me. He said:
You have been preparing your entire life for this moment so far. It happens once every 100 or 200 years, and it just happens to occur now and even though you think you may not have the experience for this, it’s all been preparing you for this.
I could say the same exact thing to you. When it’s time for you to face Goliath, look in the mirror. That’s where the solution is. It’s you.
Yasser Youssef is the president of The Budd Group, one of the leading facility service companies in the country a North Carolina-based company that provides facility support services in the Southeast. Throughout his career, Youssef has met leaders from all backgrounds, and believes leadership is for everyone. Over the past few years, he has developed an affinity for writing and contributing thought leadership, and is often asked to speak to businesses throughout the country about authentic leadership.