The past three months have seen our country battered by COVID and suffering through the pain of losing more than 100,000 of our fellow Americans and the devastating economic fallout. Then the attention of the country switched from the Coronavirus to the violent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd —  and the anguish and rage of protesters in our communities.

We can’t pay such a high cost in human suffering and not seek to make different choices in the future.

Perhaps we will strengthen our health infrastructure and our ability to fight future pandemics.

Perhaps we will address the parts of our economy that aren’t working and bolster those that are.

Perhaps we will reform our systems to eliminate the racism within them and ensure that all people can reach their full potential.

The one thing that each of us can choose to take from this shared experience is wisdom. The spring of 2020 has been filled with teachable moments, with events that not only shape us but show us who we are.

An essential part of Values Based Leadership is Practicing Reflection in order to gain such wisdom. Our responses to the pandemic, tragedy, and protests — even if confusing — can help us understand who we really are. We can reflect on our actions. Did we act in alignment with our values in service to the impact we want to have on others? Did we empathize to build trust and connection? Have we stood up for our deepest beliefs, even when there was a cost? Did we make a difference?

The ultimate question to ask ourselves is what has adversity revealed about our character and what will we do about it? Celebrate it, or change it? Wisdom requires awareness, then choice. As leaders, we get to choose who we are and the positive impact we want to make.

These teachable moments are crucibles for our leadership, and my hope for all of us is that we come out on the other side of this better, braver, and wiser.


Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

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