Wow, what a time this is! Nothing like a worldwide pandemic to bring us together as a global community. The disease has affected almost every person on the planet in some way, shape, or form and everybody has their own unique way and style of dealing/coping/working through it. In my context, as both a husband and a father (and a bunch of other things), I am also the Executive Director of ACS; and as such, I am often observing and learning from other leaders in other schools, our city, our province, our country, and our world.

During this time, it is not hard to find leaders speaking on behalf of their organizations or countries. In a recorded message to our staff during the week of April 20, I quoted the Queen of England, as I was impressed by her measured perspective. This gave me an idea. The following are my favourite public leaders specific to how they have led their respective countries and organizations during this time. Please note that there are many unsung heroes that don’t ever get recognized and are also amazing leaders in their own right…I am by no means undercutting their value in our society or in our school — especially during these times.

Julius’ Top Ten Favourite Leaders during the COVID-19 Crisis

  1. Jacinda Ardern—Prime Minister of New Zealand. The 39-year-old is touted as one of the heroes of this pandemic, leading the charge in New Zealand as a world leader in how to fight COVID-19 head on. There are recent reports that New Zealand has gotten on the positive side of the curve. I’m particularly struck by her daily briefings from her own living room as she preaches a message of “staying home.” Her nation feels that she is in this with them together and she has appealed to both the emotions and the logic in an appropriate manner.
  2. Andy Crouch—Andy is a Christian author, editor, speaker, and former Editor in Chief of Christianity Today. He, along with his Praxis colleagues, has helped guide Christian leaders in our culture with his podcast and ensuing editorial, “Leading Beyond the Blizzard: Why Every Organization Is Now A Startup.” He reminds us that leadership during the COVID-19 crisis is as much about posture and how we lead, as it is in what we say and require in terms of implementation. He is also quite prophetic, saying this pandemic should be treated much more like an ice-age than a blizzard.
  3. Angela Merkel—Chancellor of Germany. Not a popular leader prior to the pandemic, Angela was even described by some as a “lame duck.” However, her unwavering balance of calm pleas backed by scientific rigour, has seemed to disarm the hysteria of the moment. Perhaps being a 65-year-old physician and daughter of a Lutheran pastor has aided her ability to lead well in this time.
  4. Jeong Eun-Kyeong—Head of South Korea’s Center for Disease Control. I wanted to list current president Moon Jae-in (who was just voted in for another term), as he is lauded as an incredible leader (which I’m sure he is). The nod for why South Korea is seen as a leader in fighting the COVID-19 crisis (even as news of relapses are being reported in South Korea) goes to his right hand person, the head of the KCDC, who led multiple, coordinated efforts that helped in flattening the curve in South Korea. She continues to move swiftly on the many challenges facing South Koreans.
  5. Brian Chesky —CEO of Airbnb. This is a good news story and I am sure there are hundreds of companies sharing similar stories over the past few weeks. I am sharing this one because Airbnb is a public company and is in the news regularly. Airbnb decided to launch their free “Open Home-Medical Stays” program allowing people who need respite, critical care, and a place to stay for ones travelling for medical reasons during this time, to access free temporary lodging. I can’t really remark on Brian’s specific leadership per se, but Airbnb inspired hope with this bold and courageous move.
  6. Doug Ford—Premier of Ontario. I never thought I would be making this claim, but, in my opinion, Doug Ford is actually doing a good job leading Ontario right now. Maybe I’m putting him on my top ten because I expected something very different from him, so to make the leap into what he has been doing is nothing short of remarkable—seriously!
  7. Mette Frederiksen—Prime Minister of Denmark. She is on this list primarily because of her swift and courageous actions early in the pandemic as most of her EU counterparts were not following suit. In hindsight, it was the right move. I would also give her the nod because of her “Greenland is obviously not for sale” comments that shut down an awkward and weird public debate…but that was prior to the pandemic.
  8. Eric YuanCEO of Zoom. Obviously Zoom became a sought after commodity almost overnight. The challenges of unprecedented scaling of a small company became evident. However, Eric owned it the whole way through and stayed committed to transparency. Plus, they aren’t doing all that bad on moving on the initiatives that they have had to move swiftly on. As an end-user, we are impressed.
  9. Pope Francis—The pope! I’ve always been a big fan, so I’ve been following his words and leadership.  Obviously, a significant public figure whose every word gets scrutinized. His message of hope, especially during Easter, was especially moving. He reminded us all well that there was death, before everlasting life…a great metaphor for the times we are in.
  10. Last, but not least, Bonnie Henry—Our own cult hero, the Provincial Health Officer of BC. Bonnie has received accolades all over the globe for how she is leading through this crisis. I’m not entirely sure we can fully grasp how she has done it:  is it her measured responses to questions? Is it the fact that she stays in press briefings until the last question is asked? Is it her innate ability to lead with both emotion and scientific evidence? No matter what her secret is…she is the only one that I could find who actually has a pair of shoes designed with her name.

We know that leadership matters for organizations. And clearly in times of crisis, quality leadership is essential.

To this end, the leaders in our school are off the charts in terms of how they are leading:

  • Principal Roy van Eerden, in his last year as principal at ACS Elementary.
  • Tym Berger, the principal “in the middle”—with his careful and calm assurances.
  • Mike Riezebos, the new kid on the block—nothing like being thrown into the frying pan in your first year as secondary principal!

I think of our Learning Support Services (LSS) Coordinators who haven’t slept since spring break. And our ESW Child Care Centre employees who have launched an incredible success story at ACS during these difficult times for some families. Who can forget our Learning Leaders, our vice principals. There are certainly many more…but I’ll save them for another blog post!

I asked a few others who their favourites are during these times and received the following who weren’t on my list:

Rick Thiessen, ACS Board Chair says, Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York. Rick says, “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” What New York needs right now.

Mike Riezebos, secondary principal echoed Rick’s sentiments about Cuomo (unsolicited).

Roy van Eerden added Deena Hinshaw, the Chief Medical Officer of Alberta.

Tym Berger added Ed Noot, President of FISA and Executive Director of SCSBC.

Ren Siebenga (my dad) says Bill Gates, David Brooks  (editorial writer for the NY Times), and Malcolm Gladwell (freelance author and podcaster).

I asked 85 BC Christian school leaders who they would choose. Bonnie Henry was the obvious first choice for the above reasons. Adrian Dix, BC Minister of Health, Premier John Horgan, and our Ministry educational leaders were also names that came up.

What about you…who are your favourites and why?