So many of my friends and respected pundits and journalists are singing the praises of Governor Cuomo as he provides the alternative reality to DT’s heinous, falsehood-laden presentation on the state of the union during the COVID-19 pandemic. It took me a while to figure out that it’s yet again “we the people” who need to take a step back and assess how we evaluate leadership, and more importantly, success and results.
I have not followed Cuomo, and really haven’t thought much about him until now, but I have heard those I respect speak of what a weak governor he has been all along. He has closed hospital after hospital since his tenure began. According to his own words, he knew about the virus in December, and yet he did literally nothing to address it before late February. And now he has stepped forward, taking over the country with his solid “leadership” of New York in this crisis.
I have been disquieted all through this Cuomo admiration because I, as a strategist and marketing consultant, recognize that it’s all simply a result of the presentations he makes, not the reality of the success he has had. I tend to look beyond the presentations, at the nuts and bolts, and when I do, I realize that we are in deep trouble — in part, because of his inaction early on.
In December, Cuomo knew this was coming. He admits that. And yet he did nothing. He has not been able to successfully negotiate with this disgrace of a government to get what we need. We are now the epicenter OF THE WORLD, and every doctor, nurse, and health-care provider tells me that they are not being heard. The emergency room staff at Southampton Hospital can’t get food during their 18-hour shift. My friend organized drop-offs from local restaurants that are offering takeout. That is leadership. Going on TV and presenting an empathetic, calm, caring demeanor does not alone a leader make.
We Americans have to stop judging leaders solely based on presentation and what makes us feel good when we see it. In the absence of true leadership, we will drink the sand in the desert and pretend its water, to paraphrase Aaron Sorkin in “The American President.” I believe we have done this with Cuomo.
Maya Angelou said that we will not remember what people did; we will remember how they made us feel. In this case, it’s hubris to declare leaders based on the smoke and mirrors of media presentation. The most important quality in a leader, in my opinion, is to be in front of the problem. She needs to foresee what is to come, and with the strength of her convictions, state it clearly and explain the reasons for her thoughts on the matter. Then a leader surrounds herself with those who can take her vision to new heights — those who might not be able to see the first speck on the horizon, but who can nurture it as it comes into view. The leader then deploys support to those on the front lines to ensure they have the easiest path to success in their endeavor.
There have been true leaders so far in this pandemic. There are doctors who spoke up early and took the heat. There are mayors who shut down their towns and cities long before it was politically safe for them to do so. The prime minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen, saw what lay ahead, put a nationwide lockdown in place, and established an economic safety net for Danish citizens — and her country is now all the better for it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has led with a refusal to toe the party line, but with a soft touch to make sure he’s not thrown out the door, where he can’t do any good. I would follow him anywhere.
I do not believe Cuomo is a leader. It’s all just smoke and mirrors, and we are all in if it looks good. I would point out to my fellow New Yorkers that we did this with Giuliani as well. He was a terrible mayor, and when 9/11 took place, his presence was viewed as the Second Coming. We were right the first time about him. The great Maya Angelou said it best, “When someone tells you who they are, believe them.”