By Zoricelis Dávila
The concept of leadership has been studied from multiple perspectives and approaches. Its definition can be complex because it is constantly evolving and being updated to tailor it according to the circumstance at hand. Studies have focused on leadership styles, personal traits, and attributes; nonetheless, as the study Contemporary Leadership Theories: Analysis of Relational Dynamics by Sánchez Montalván, Vaca Aguirre, Padilla Sánchez and Quezado Condolo exemplifies, every definition agrees with the fact that the behavior of a leader influences others in a specific environment.
The latter part of this description is the one I find interesting, “in a specific environment.” It means that our leadership is adaptable to the needs of the circumstances we are facing. It is not exclusive to the traits of the person, but personal traits and behaviors adjust to the needs of the moment.
We are leaders at home, church, the neighborhood, and community. As leaders, we want to be good role models for others. We are used to being in charge and in control of different situations because we are leaders by nature. However, what happens when suddenly the world around us is being threatened by a pandemic that is out of control? What happens to our leadership style and skills in that “specific environment?” The answer lies in the leader’s capacity to adapt to that specific environment.
Since this pandemic began, leaders have demonstrated strength, determination, creativity, and dedication. As leaders, it seems that we have been working harder than ever to serve a community that is being impacted daily by not only COVID-19 as a sickness, but by the aftermath of stress, families in crisis, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and much more. Leading others by nature is always challenging, but leading others amid a pandemic is courageous.
We have risen above the present circumstances of a hostile environment and demonstrated skills and abilities some of us didn’t know we had. I have seen leaders who had difficulty with technology before COVID-19 now holding Sunday school classes virtually. Churches who were not involved in social media now are holding services through Facebook live. Women who before did not dare to speak in public now are holding virtual bible studies and prayer meetings.
We have found ways to observe significant life events: a parade in front of a house to provide comfort, a caravan of cars to celebrate a special occasion, or a virtual birthday party. We do this because we want to demonstrate our love for each other as well as Jesus’ love for all persons.
This new leadership style is the result of resilience.
The pandemic has come to change our lives, but has also come to test our leadership skills. I am amazed to see the resilience, endurance, and creativity of many of our Latina leaders. When others are being overwhelmed by fear and uncertainty, our leaders are finding new ways to continue to spread the Word of God and provide comfort to others.
It is very common to hear that during a crisis there is discouragement, but I am witnessing that amid a pandemic there is bravery, determination, and love for the Lord and His people. It is the love of God first, and love for others what moves us as leaders to continue serving beyond our strength. According to the research by Gallo, Espinosa De Los Monteros and Shivpuri and the one by Montine, it is called Reserve Capacity which is the physiological compensation that one person experiences when facing stress and the potential threat of harm or loss to adapt and cope beyond normal capacity.
Latina leaders these days have been accessing their Reserve Capacity to lead, encourage, comfort, and support others in times where everything seems hopeless, uncertain, and fearful.
As Christian Latina Leaders we know that our Reserve Capacity comes from Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (NIV). Christ is the source of our strength. He is the reason we find new leadership styles, fresh creativity, additional resources, and new motivation to learn that which before we thought impossible. So, as much as COVID-19 has come to challenge our leadership, it has come to reveal the person inside of us, Christ working through us.
We do not know at this point how much longer we have to endure this pandemic and its social distancing. What we know is that because we love God with all of our hearts, minds, strengths, and souls (Matthew 22:37); we love others and we continue to exercise servant leadership despite a pandemic.
If you feel you are functioning out of the last drop of energy and strength, remember that Christ in you is your Reserve Capacity. Christ is helping you access strength and leadership skills that will allow you to serve those that God has already ordained in your path to comfort them with the same comfort you have received from Him (2 Corinthians 1:4). Leadership in times of COVID-19 is not easy, it is an act of love. I encourage you to tap into your Reserve Capacity, be strong in the Lord and remember the words of the Apostle Paul, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV).
Dr. Zoricelis Dávila, Ph.D., LPC-S, is a professional counselor and supervisor in this field, with 17 years of experience. She has a private practice in Fort Worth, TX serving the Latino community. Dr. Dávila is a member of the CLLI board of directors and faculty. She is also an international speaker, author, and professor of career counseling at Liberty University.