Like so many of my friends, family and colleagues, watching New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Corona press conference has become a daily ritual. My 17-year-old daughter, Madi, and I have been awestruck by Cuomo’s governmental leadership in a crisis. But, more importantly, it’s how he makes us all feel in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty — BETTER. Governor Cuomo’s performance is captivating, and it’s an example of balanced leadership, because he seamlessly integrates the head and heart.
So often, we feel a void of leadership — or we find ourselves disappointed by our leaders — but then there’s a leader who surprises us and reminds us why leadership is so important. In every crisis there are leaders who rise through the rubble to lead. Crisis brings both likely and unlikely leadership in places big and small. Governor Cuomo is an unexpected leader in this Corona upheaval, and his moral head-and-heart leadership is an example for other leaders to follow.
Cuomo has become a pivotal figure — the go-to leader — in the Corona crisis. People everywhere are taking notice, and his daily press conference preempts the daily White House briefing due to its informative and emotional effectiveness. The way Cuomo sits at his press conferences and explains many aspects of the Corona challenge; his easy-to-follow and understandable slides; his willing collaboration with his aides and colleagues sitting beside him — it feels like he’s talking with us, not at us. And he’s so real with us —honest, transparent and authentic. We believe him. He reminds us how important government is, and what it looks like when it’s working.
The governor also reassures, soothes and empathizes in this unsettling and surreal time. He makes it personal by sharing his own family’s experience with his mother Matilda, trying to keep her safe; and he talks wistfully about his daughter, how she’s missing the end of her senior year, and how he now gets to have cherished, extra and unplanned time with her. Cuomo is one of us. He reminds us of our goodness and humanity. He honors those on the front line — our amazing healthcare community and the thousands of doctors and nurses who are risking their lives every day.
What stands out — the key leadership learning here — is how this self-pronounced brash and direct political leader has demonstrated a perfect blend of head (his subject mastery and ability to lucidly explain problems and solutions) and heart (his understanding of the emotional toll this crisis is taking on us). Put another way, Cuomo models both competence and care.
The devastating Corona crisis is far from over. But, as we struggle through this pandemic, our leaders — in the public and private sectors, and in the community — would do well to look at Governor Cuomo as a North Star. We need all the light we can see.