Leadership Lessons from Job in the Time of Pandemic

[1] Leadership analysts have plenty of opportunities just now for critiquing, denouncing, or extolling the actions of people with authority and influence. As for me, I’ve turned to the Book of Job.

[2] To recap: By almost any standard, Job would be considered a real civic leader. He’s wealthy and by the time’s standards blameless and upright: The New English Bible tells us he owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 asses, and many slaves. He is often called into the town to provide counsel. He is “the greatest man in all the East” (1:1-3). He’s the kind of person that publishers might pursue to write a best-seller, “Top Ten Leadership Lessons from Job of Uz.”

[3] Yet, God agrees to let Satan deprive Job of all his wealth, his sons and daughters, and even his own health. Satan has presented a challenge: Let’s see if Job remains so righteous and God-fearing once his fortunes have turned and he’s brought low. Ultimately, Job is left with next to nothing and afflicted with “running sores from head to foot” (2:7-8).

[4] Meanwhile, Job’s friends aren’t much help. Three of them come to visit and while initially seeming to be sympathetic, they mainly exhort Job to examine his life. Surely, they say, you have done something to offend God. Job’s wife advises him to denounce God, and Job rudely rejects that course. Instead, Job launches into a lengthy lament of self-defense and demands that God show up and explain why he’s being so mistreated.

[5] Finally, God relents and, in effect, says from the whirlwind: Listen up. Look around. Where were you when the stars, sun, and moon were placed in the heavens? Do you control the ebb and flow of the tides? Did you set the boundaries between land and sea?

[6] Just take a look at all the marvelous wild creatures in the world. They accomplish amazing feats without your help. Especially admirable are Behemoth and Leviathon. Behemoth, which the artist William Blake would depict as a mythical hippopotamus, “devours cattle as if they were grass” and “his bones are tubes of bronze, and his limbs like bars of iron” (40:15-18). Leviathon, rendered by Blake as a sea serpent, “makes the deep water boil like a cauldron, he whips up the lake like ointment in a mixing bowl….he is king over all proud beasts” (41:31-34).

[7] At last, Job drops his defenses and his eyes are opened to his lack of control over creation and his relative insignificance in the universe. He says to God, “I have spoken of great things which I have not understood, things too wonderful for me to know. I knew of thee then only by report, but now I see thee with my own eyes” (42:3-5).

[8] The story of Job is especially instructive for those in positions of authority and influence in this time of global pandemic and economic recession. It can be tempting in time of crisis to turn to seemingly powerful men and women and defer to their authority; humans understandably yearn for the silver bullet, the all-seeing savior, the guarantor of better times. Yet, Job’s story points away from such illusory hope.

[9] For the last 25 years at least, leadership scholars have been intensely questioning the view of leadership as the province of individuals with prestige and power. Several of us have been fixed on discerning the ways that committed individuals from diverse backgrounds are practicing or might practice leadership that remedies social and organizational problems, or takes advantage of opportunities to improve the human condition. We note the special responsibilities and clout of people with positional authority, but we take a “leaderful” view in keeping with Joe Raelin’s (2011) insistence that almost anyone can contribute to leadership practice.

[10] Consider a few examples: Sonia Ospina and Erica Foldy (2010) have focused on the ways that grassroots leaders build bridges among diverse constituencies and use race and ethnicity as assets. Kathryn Quick (2017) has traced the development of collective leadership as local officials and business and nonprofit leaders opened up space for citizen engagement in communal problem solving.

[11] John Bryson and I have developed the leadership for the common good framework (Crosby and Bryson, 2005) that highlights the ways that numerous leaders and committed followers can effectively tackle public problems in today’s shared-power world. Building on that framework we have described practices of integrative leadership (Crosby and Bryson, 2012) – the work of bringing diverse groups together across sectoral, geographic, and cultural boundaries to tackle complex problems and achieve the common good.

[12] This group of scholars has tended to insist that people who want to achieve sustainable solutions to grand societal challenges like global climate change and racial injustice must practice leadership in tune with the human and natural systems in which those challenges are embedded. For example Mary Uhl-Bien, Russ Marion, and Michael Arena have illuminated the modes of leadership that help organizations thrive as complex adaptive systems. They emphasize the need for “enabling leadership” that can help people with positional power open hierarchical systems to innovative ideas stemming from “the collective intelligence of organizations and groups” (Uhl-Bien and Arena, 2017, p. 10). Kathleen Allen (2019) describes leadership practices that can help human systems evolve in life-affirming ways. Leadership, in her view, is about unleashing human talents and energies, not about exercising command and control. She draws from nature’s design principles, such as interdependency, to offer lessons for leaders. Brad Jackson (2019) argues that collective leadership is rooted in humans’ relationships to distinctive places. Referring to Sotarauta and Beer (2017), he emphasizes that place leadership “recognizes the salience of fragmented or shared actions, among a whole series of organizations and/or several leaders rather than top-down intra-organizational leadership processes” (p. 216).


[13] These scholars have tended to insist that leadership is an inherently moral practice (see Cuilla et al., 2018) that grapples with ethical questions and is (or should be) aimed at the well-being of humans and their earthly habitat (Allen, 2019). John Bryson and I have long argued that “leadership is the inspiration and mobilization of others to undertake collective action in pursuit of the common good” (Crosby and Bryson, 2005, p. xix). Art Blume (2020), an Indigenous psychologist, offers an Indigenous model of leadership, which “ascertains the common interests of the whole and aligns the activities of constituent entities with those common interests.” He argues, “Because of the interdependent nature of existence, advancing and defending the interests of the whole is ultimately the only way to ensure the safety and security of individual constituents — human and non-human.”

[14] In a contemporary example of collective leadership in my own city of Minneapolis, powerful positional leaders like the mayor and police chief have been unable to make significant headway in dealing with abusive policing.  Following the murder of George Floyd in late May 2020, all kinds of people have stepped up to protest racial injustice, argue for concrete policing reforms, provide care and support for people suffering from the pandemic and the destruction of local businesses (as a result of the arson and looting that followed largely peaceful protests), and craft an array of striking visual memorials to Floyd and others who have died at the hands of police. Many of these people and their organizations already had been engaged in less visible leadership work – the theater (Mixed Blood) that had been supporting artists of color and welcoming diverse audiences for its entire history, the organizations devoted to business development along corridors inhabited by new Americans, the block captains, local Black Lives Matter groups, and many others. Now, positional leaders, from the governor and legislators to city council members and the mayor are working with a diverse cadre of leaders and committed followers to flesh out and pursue an agenda for transforming police practice in Minneapolis and beyond.

Crosby Floyd.jpg

Memorial for George Floyd in South Minneapolis.       Photo by Barbara C. Crosby


Supportive Personal Qualities and Leadership Practices

[15] The Book of Job doesn’t really offer much insight into collective leadership in the land of Uz, but – along with the body of theorizing and research I’ve already mentioned – it does point to the personal qualities and leadership practices that would support more humane, just, and sustainable human communities.

Cognitive, socio-emotional, and behavioral complexity plus wisdom. 

[16] The Job story admonishes leaders, would-be leaders, and committed followers, first of all to pay attention. Despite his prideful defensiveness, Job seeks to understand why he has been brought low. That determined quest (perhaps similar to the collective work of epidemiologists and virologists just now) finally helped him better appreciate the workings and mysteries of the natural world (Stortz, 2019). Similarly, in the wake of George Floyd’s death and resulting protests, many people now are trying to educate themselves about systemic racism and especially ongoing police brutality toward African-Americans and other people of color. Without understanding of the complex systems in which a global pandemic or racial injustice takes root and persists, a person can hardly expect to practice effective leadership.

[17] Second, Job’s story reminds leaders of the need to temper their self-confidence with humility. As Job defends himself before God, he has no problem enumerating his achievements and righteous behavior. Here’s just a sample of Job’s nostalgia-filled description of the respect he feels he so richly deserved in “the old days”:

If I went through the gate out of the town

to take my seat in the public square,

young men saw me and kept out of sight;

old men rose to their feet,

men in authority broke off their talk

and put their hands to their lips;

the voices of the nobles died away,

and every man held his tongue.

They listened to me expectantly

and waited in silence for my opinion.

When I had spoken, no one spoke again;

my words fell gently on them;

they waited for them as for rain

and drank them in like showers in spring.

When I smiled on them, they took heart;

when my face lit up, they lost their gloomy looks.

I presided over them, planning their course,

like a king encamped with his troops. (29:7-25)

[18] Job goes on to describe his good deeds on behalf of the poor, the orphan, the widow and others in need. He is a scourge of miscreants. Yet, he acknowledges that none of this has saved him from destitution, disease, and the disdain of even “vile base-born wretches” (30:8).

Eventually, Job humbles himself before God, but not before a mighty emotional outcry. Again, just a sample:

Terror upon terror overwhelms me,

it sweeps away my resolution like the wind,

and my hope of victory vanishes like a cloud.

So now my soul is in turmoil within me,

And misery has me daily in its grip.

By night pain pierces my very bones,

And there is ceaseless throbbing in my veins;

My garments are all bespattered with my phlegm,

Which chokes me like the collar of a shirt.

God himself has flung me down in the mud,

No better than dust or ashes. (30:15-19)


Even earlier he has admitted to living in fear despite his accumulated wealth and status. He laments, “Every terror that haunted me has caught up with me, and all I feared has come upon me.” (3:25). Clearly, Job is in touch with his emotions!

[19] Third, Job is tenacious. His storm of emotions do not keep him from persisting in his core belief that God, not man, is the source of wisdom; moreover, he will not abandon his quest for an explanation from God. He firmly resists the disinformation offered by his supposed friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Early on, Bildad rebukes Job for insisting upon an audience with God and claims Job’s sons were “victims of their own iniquity.” Zophar advises Job to drop his quest for knowledge and “let no iniquity make its home with you.” By chapter 22, Eliphaz is accusing Job of all sorts of wickedness. Job either ignores his friends’ admonishments or pushes back. To Bildad, he responds with some sarcasm:

What counsel you offer to a man at his wit’s end,

what sound advice to the foolish!

Who has prompted you to say such things,

and whose spirit is expressed in your speech? (26:3-4)


Job admits to being fearful of meeting God, but he asserts: “I am not reduced to silence by the darkness nor by the mystery which hides him” (23:17).


[20] Finally, once Job succeeds in confronting God, he drops all his defenses. As theologian Martha Stortz notes, he listens intently as God poses “a series of searing questions that challenge Job's and his friends’ anthropocentric narrative” (personal communication). Job responds to God’s poetic description of the world’s natural forces and wild beasts by repenting – in effect a promise to change his behavior in the future. He has been made fully aware of the need to acknowledge, and harmonize his actions with, powerful natural systems.

[21] By the end of his story, Job has acquired more of the cognitive, socio-emotional,and behavioral complexity that undergirds moral leadership in a shared-power world (Hooijberg, Hunt, and Dodge, 1997; Bryson, Crosby and Seo, 2019). In particular, he has greatly expanded his own store of wisdom.

Stakeholder analysis and engagement.

[22] The Job story also highlights the importance of attending to stakeholders– those close at hand and beyond. At close range, he might have engaged more adeptly with his wife, daughters, and sons. Before calamity struck, Job did seek to protect his grown children by making sacrificial offerings on their behalf since he suspected they might “somehow have sinned against God and committed blasphemy in their hearts” (1:5). He would have been smarter to help them build stronger homes, since all are killed when a whirlwind destroys the eldest brother’s house where they all have gathered. Job’s wife appears in the story only after the children have died and he is utterly ruined. As Job sits among the ashes, she is hardly sympathetic: “Are you still unshaken in your integrity?” she asks. “Curse God and die.” Job is hardly empathetic in his own response, when he accuses her of talking as “any wicked fool of a woman might talk” (2:10).

[23] Once Satan goes to work, Job utterly fails to protect the herders, shepherds, and drivers who work for him. First the Sabeans swoop down upon the herdsmen and put them to the sword before carrying off all Job’s oxen as they are plowing and his asses who are grazing. Lightning burns up Job’s sheep and shepherds and the Chaldeans carry off the camels “after putting the drivers to the sword” (1:16-17).

[24] In defending himself to his friends and God, Job seems mainly interested in his stakeholders as people who offer him adulation or proof of his righteousness. He does recognize the centrality of God, but exhibits no awareness of Satan and little concern for the maintenance of the Earth and its human and non-human inhabitants beyond the land of Uz.

[25] By story’s end, he does have a greater understanding of God; he intercedes for his three friends, who have incurred God’s wrath because of their faithlessness, and he holds a feast for his relatives and acquaintances. Defying custom, he gives his daughters – Jemimah, Keziah and Keren-Happuch – an inheritance along with their brothers.

[26] The Job story reminds us to pay attention to stakeholders and especially to include people who’ve been marginalized, future generations, and the wild things. We also need to include the mischief makers – then Satan, now the spreaders of disinformation.

[27] Of course, simply paying attention to stakeholders is hardly enough. First, if you or your group wants to tackle an issue like climate change or racial justice in your particular context, you would be wise to identify key stakeholders – those individuals, groups, or organizations that are most affected, have responsibility to do something about the issue, or have crucial resources (for example, funding, access, or knowledge) that can be used to support or oppose needed change (Crosby and Bryson, 2005). Second, spend some time understanding the interests of the key stakeholders. For example, Job’s herdsmen, shepherds, and drivers were no doubt very interested in decent working conditions, including protection from marauding bands.

[28] Today, leaders seeking to build effective coalitions to achieve a collective value like security might convene a cross-section of stakeholders to engage in problem analysis and solution search. They might use tools like policy field analysis (Sandfort and Moulton, 2015), systems dynamics modeling (Richardson, 2019), and action-oriented strategy mapping (Bryson, Ackermann, and Eden, 2014) that help groups develop a systems view and avoid simplistic solutions like those advanced by Job’s friends. These participatory tools can help groups develop strategies that can amplify promising developments and tamp down those likely to cause great suffering.  Finally, contemporary leaders might use tools like the power versus interest grid and influence diagrams (Bryson, 2004; Ackermann and Eden, 2011) that can help groups craft winning proposals and build and sustain supportive coalitions. (It’s possible to imagine a group of alert herdsmen using an understanding of stakeholder power, interests, and mutual interest to forge an alliance with others in Job’s employ, and maybe even enroll one or more of Job’s sons in thwarting Satan’s plans.)

Creation and communication of compelling stories.  

[29] An especially vital leadership skill just now is storytelling that energizes stakeholders and facilitates coalition building by making sense of current tragedies, offering an inclusive vision of the future, and facilitating a letting-go of no-longer (if ever) useful behaviors and beliefs. The writer of Job offers a new story that is a powerful counter-punch to an old (still familiar) story, which is that material success is a sign of God’s favor and deserved by those who are widely admired and celebrated (even if their success stems from forced labor).

[30] The writer gets the reader’s attention with a vivid description of Job’s downfall, his carping friends, and Job’s pleas to God. Then the writer gives the stage to God, who takes the story to a different level. Now, the reader’s attention is directed to the wildness of the world and humans’ relative puniness. Speaking from the whirlwind God asks of Job:

Who is this whose ignorant words

cloud my design in darkness?

Brace yourself and stand up like a man;

I will ask questions and you shall answer.

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?

Tell me if you know and understand…..

In all your life have you ever called up the dawn

or shown the morning its place?

Have you taught it to grasp the fringes of the earth

and shake the Dog-star from its place;

to bring up the horizon in relief as clay under a seal

until all things stand out like the folds of a cloak,

when the light of the Dog-star is dimmed

and the stars of the Navigator’s Line go out one by one? (38:2-4; 12-15)


God then takes Job on a tour of the world’s wonders and celebrates the capabilities of lionesses, ravens, deer, wild asses and oxen, horses, hawks, vultures, and whales. Finally, he describes in loving detail the mythical beast Leviathan. Here’s a snippet;

His sneezing sends out sprays of light

And his eyes gleam like the shimmer of dawn.

Firebrands shoot from his mouth.

And sparks come streaming out;

his nostrils pour forth smoke

like a cauldron on a fire blown to full heat. (41:18-20)


This rhetorical tour leaves Job with new awareness and whole-hearted humility. Finally, the story’s author provides a happy ending in which Jobs’s fortunes and children are restored. “Job lived another hundred and forty years, he saw his sons and his grandsons to four generations, and died at a very great age” (42:16-17).


William Blake’s Behemoth and Leviathan            Wikimedia Commons




Leadership Stories for the Moment

[31] What, then, is the over-arching story that wise leaders and followers (scholars, journalists, community organizers, elected officials, clergy and so on) might convey today? Perhaps it’s simply a modern version of the Job story, one that points out the limitations of powerful people and nations, celebrates the awe-ful beauty of the natural world, and recognizes that the most sustainable leadership is vested in a host of collaborative leaders and engaged followers. One that peels back the capitalistic veil to show that the great profits of many corporations rest on the tenuous, underpaid employment of cleaners, stockers, delivery people, servers, and gig workers. One that highlights both the great insights of scientists and acknowledges the imperfections and ambiguities in the experts’ models and research findings. One that celebrates community-level examples of supporting health care workers or farm families, of transitioning to low-carbon modes of transportation and energy production. One that provides the impetus for better public policies such as a carbon tax, cultural preservation, universal health insurance, or guaranteed early childhood education.

[32] This contemporary story should highlight the dire consequences of maintaining the status quo. It should include the voices of the people who are suffering from low wages, lack of health care, and police brutality. It should report on the loss of biodiversity, the ravages of climate change on coastal communities, beaches awash in discarded plastic. Some combination of alarm and hopeful visions of the future are probably necessary to foster a sense of what Martin Luther King Jr. called the “fierce urgency of now.”

[33] The story should convey messages of interconnection. It should offer reasons to trust each other even as we are social distancing. It should celebrate creative and artistic endeavor even as algorithms and artificial intelligence control more and more of human existence.

Stories in the realms of science, economics, and policy. 

[34] An over-arching story can frame numerous specialized stories in many realms – for example, science, economics, and policy. In the realm of science, stories might describe the mesh of human and natural systems that result in disease transmission and provide lessons about prevention and remediation. These stories might feature the work of individual leaders like Anthony Fauci and Angela Merkel, whose scientific training undergird their messages of caution and advocacy of sustained behavior change. The stories might describe the collaboration among scientists in different institutions that often compete with each other but share a common mission of staving off human catastrophe.

[35] In the realm of economics, stories might focus on the precariousness of global supply chains and government-subsidized corporate farming. Certainly the current pandemic has laid bare the perils of relying on the cheapest labor and just-in-time inventory. Journalists already are telling stories about the ingenuity and determination of big and small firms and even student groups that have made rapid pivots to craft personal protective gear from materials they had on hand or were able to obtain from suppliers. In my own state, the manufacturing giant 3M worked with Ford Motor Company to fast-track the design and production of powered air-filtering respirators for health care workers.  At the University of Minnesota a group of bioengineering students and their professor responded to an urgent need for 350,000 protective gowns. Within a couple of weeks, student teams developed designs and persuaded a local plastics company to make material for the gowns and another local manufacturer to do the final production. One team also researched federal regulations to assure that their designs would comply. Soon the gowns were being delivered to university medical centers.

[36] Stories might highlight the vision of sustainability and equity enacted by cooperative enterprises. Not far from where I live is one of two neighborhood groceries operated by the thriving Seward Coop, which adheres to international cooperative values and principles, such as democratic member control and concern for community. The 21,000-member coop builds direct relationships with farmers and other vendors and promotes nutrition via its classes, promotions, and grant program. It has come a long way from its roots in the alternative food, self-help movement in the 1970s; its story of collective leadership would include the challenges of becoming a truly inclusive organization, of responding to an ultimately successful unionization effort, of launching an ambitious café and then having to recalibrate from full-service to counter service. More recently the coop has had to completely reorganize its stores to accommodate shoppers safely during the COVID pandemic and had to be sure they stayed viable during the protests that engulfed surrounding neighborhoods in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. In recent months the store near me has been full of socially distanced shoppers that are as likely to include a Somali immigrant as a middle-aged white woman. The store’s large windows were boarded up with plywood at the height of the recent protests. Now the plywood is covered with bright murals calling for justice and offering images of a better future.

        Crosby Sunflower.jpg                                                                                                                Photo by Barbara C. Crosby

Plywood murals honoring George Floyd near entrance to Seward Coop in Minneapolis.

[37] In the policy realm, stories would emphasize an array of public values (Bryson, Crosby, and Bloomberg, 2015) in addition to efficiency, which has often provided the rationale for government regulations and programs that have enabled corporate farming and mega slaughterhouses, for example. (Of course, the current pandemic reveals that giant meat-packing plants are actually not very efficient if one factors in the health risks they pose and the vulnerability of farmers who rely on them.) If public values like equity and democratic process have at least equal weight with efficiency, policy makers might offer visions for their communities in which everyone has access to decent housing, a living wage, and adequate health care. They might hold up the stories of communities that have elevated public safety over policing and incarceration.

[38] Stories might also come from historians, public intellectuals, and journalists who describe socially transformative policies that resulted from previous calamities like the Depression and World War II. An example in Britain would be the establishment of its National Health Service. U.S. examples would include Roosevelt’s New Deal and the GI bill. These stories offer impetus for tales of potential policies to remedy inequalities and insecurity. For example, a long-time public servant, David Riemer (2020) outlines a New Deal 3.0 that would conserve public resources, strengthen the social safety net, and boost the economy. He proposes ending the U.S. welfare system for both corporations and individuals, and ensuring that socially useful work is available for all who are able and that everyone has access to basic income. Other people are offering stories that would help strengthen young people’s commitment to the well-being of their country and community – for example, through a national year of service (Brooks, 2020).  Max Klau, who for many years directed an Americorps program, explains the value of community service in this YouTube interview organized by the International Leadership Association: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=432&v=5s1W8YDJjjY&feature=emb_logo.

The design of forums for storytelling. 

[39] Inspiring, instructive stories crafted and enacted by innovative individuals and groups can be crucial to the information flow that Uhl-Bien and Arena (2017) identify as crucial to fostering adaptation and resisting the pull of returning to a prior order. To have impact, these storytellers must attend to the design and use of forums and strategize about how best to link outcomes in forums to the work of policy-making and implementation in arenas and the sanctioning of conduct in courts (Crosby and Bryson, 2005). By forums I mean settings for the creation and communication of meaning – for example, news media, Twitter, YouTube, community meetings, committee hearings, and musical performances. Just now I think of the dramatic stories told by protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. They have been shouting through bullhorns; they have been painting murals and constructing memorials that link Floyd’s murder to brutal treatment of so many other black and brown men and women. They have held forums in the streets, in community buildings, on talk shows, and on social media.

[40] Very few of today’s storytellers can aspire like the author of Job to place their stories in a sacred text. Still, they might learn some things from this author about how to hold an audience and gain access to influential forums. The Job story offers drama, compelling language, and visual imagery. It is full of tragedy and betrayal, but also comedy if we focus on its revelations of human foolishness and ignorance. The best leadership stories link the passions and behaviors of individuals to a larger issue, tying together micro and macro. The Book of Job wraps the downfall and restoration of Job and his friends together with a compelling story of natural forces and humans’ place in the world.

[41] Additionally, especially in times of ferment, forums will be full of competing stories. (Even the Hebrew Bible has them: the Book of Genesis offers a creation story that is quite different from the one told so vividly in the Book of Job.) The organizers of forums to craft and communicate stories of more sustainable communities are bound to encounter participants who hang onto old paradigms. Job himself, as well as his friends, are examples. Kathy Allen (2019) suggests that the voices of those adhering to an old order will become especially loud as a new paradigm gains force. Just now, this phenomenon is evident in conversations about police reform in a number of cities. The main competing stories might be labeled “bad apples” versus “rotten to the core.” In the bad apples story, the problem becomes a few rogue cops and the solution becomes weeding them out of an otherwise decent force. In the rotten to the core story, the policing system itself is diseased and the solution is to radically transform it, using different design principles. One way of advancing beyond competing arguments is to reframe the conversation to focus on “public safety.” By doing this, activists, officials, and other stakeholders can begin to identify the many facets of public safety and develop a satisfactory set of solutions that can deal with each facet.


[42] The Hebrew Bible’s story of Job resonates through the ages and offers leadership lessons for responding to contemporary calamities.  First, the story indicates that relying on a few “great” men and women to provide the wisdom and actions needed to remedy complex problems is unwise. Second, those aspiring to lead should seek deep knowledge about their situation, remain humble about what they can accomplish on their own, and persist despite their fears and the unwise counsel of others. At the same time, they should be prepared to change course in the light of new understanding. Third, attention to and engagement of stakeholders – including those who have been marginalized, future generations, the wild things, and even mischief makers – is imperative. Fourth, leaders should help their communities craft stories that make sense of contemporary challenges like racial inequality and climate change, highlight interconnectedness, uphold democratic principles, and offer hopeful paths to a better future. Finally, leaders should astutely design and use a variety of forums to convey these stories and promote needed actions in political arenas and formal and informal courts.

[43] Now that global pandemic has gotten the attention of the earth’s human inhabitants, we can choose to pursue a more sustainable and just path. Countries can use this opportunity to strengthen the social safety net, make market economies more sustainable, and fortify democracy. Otherwise, we will forfeit the lessons we’re learning from the widespread destruction caused by microscopic hunks of genetic material in protective casings. Our times demand leadership fully in tune with Mother Nature.

Dr. Barbara C. Crosby is associate professor emerita at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs and former academic co-director of the Center for Integrative Leadership at the University of Minnesota.  With a Ph.D. in leadership studies, Dr. Crosby has taught and written extensively about leadership and public policy, integrative leadership, cross-sector collaboration, and women in leadership. Dr. Crosby is a member of Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis. She previously published a short op-ed in MinnPost that drew on some of the material in this article. 

Acknowledgement: I greatly appreciate the insights of Prof. Martha Stortz, who reviewed earlier drafts of this article



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Stortz, M. E. (2019). Beauty and the Eye of the Beholder: What Job sees. Word & World, 39(1), 25-34.

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Articles published in the journal reflect the perspectives and thoughts of their authors and not necessarily the theological, ethical, or social stances of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

© December/January 2020
​Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Volume 20, Issue 7