As the head of the Corona Virus Task Force, Mike Pence knows the importance of wearing a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As early as April 3rd, Dr. Deborah Birx, Pence and President Trump provided new guidelines that emphasized the importance of wearing face masks. Yesterday, at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Pence met barefaced and unprotected with doctors and patients. This move contradicts the recommendations of the Trump administration as well as the policies of the Clinic itself. The CDC recommendation is quite specific, citing that face coverings are vital in “areas of significant community-based transmission” – such as a hospital. Why would Pence defy his own guidance, policies and apparent common sense?
Pence’s answer, like his actions, defies logic and leadership. “When the CDC issued guidelines about wearing a mask, it was their recognition that people that may have the coronavirus could prevent the possibility of conveying the virus to someone else by wearing a mask,” he said.
“And since I don’t have the coronavirus, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible healthcare personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you,” he shared. Note that Pence was accompanied by Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz – two officials who also don’t have the coronavirus. And who are clearly seen in photographs wearing masks. Masks that do not cover your eyes.
Tell It Like It Is
There’s a leadership maxim that transcends politics and partisanship: “actions speak louder than words”. When a leader defies his or her own policy, he or she effectively neutralizes the policy – making it seem unnecessary, ineffective or inaccurate.
When the marching orders aren’t followed by the leader, discipline is destroyed. What matters becomes murky. Misunderstood. Open for debate. Was that confusion the Vice President’s intention?
I asked two experts about the impact of a leader who doesn’t follow his or her own advice. Evie is 11 and her sister, Eliza, is nine years old. We jumped on a FaceTime call together to sort it all out.
“Imagine your teacher tells your class that you have to cover your mouth when you sneeze,” I begin. “Aw yeah,” Eliza says, shaking her head just to see what her hair will do next. “That’s the rule,” big sister Evie says, looking sideways at her couch companion.
“Then, all of a sudden,” I explain to them, “the teacher lets out a huge sneeze and she doesn’t cover her face at all. A-choo!” Both girls laugh at the idea. Before I can continue, Evie jumps in, “You can’t do that!” and her sister is right there, too, “Aw man! That’s the —what?” she twists and fidgets as she finds her thought, “It’s like the rules don’t matter!” Our discussion continues and they demonstrate the “vampire sneeze” maneuver for me, where your allergic reaction goes into the crook of your elbow. I ask the girls if they would cover when they sneeze, even in that teacher’s class. “Even if the teacher doesn’t do it?” Eliza asked me.
“Yep,” I said. What they both said really resonated with me, and made their parents proud: “Yes, we would – because we know better!”
Walk the Talk
We need full coverage from our leadership, now more than ever – and that means walking the talk. Otherwise, who do we trust? What guidance do we follow? Which rules really matter, if the leader doesn’t follow them? Meanwhile, with COVID-19, people are suffering and dying. At the very least, leadership means making sure that your message matches your actions. Even a fifth-grader knows that.
With the entire world watching, our political leaders have a powerful opportunity – an opportunity to lead by example. As John C. Maxwell said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Even when wearing a mask.
This content was originally published here.