A Restorative Leadership Response to Zika

With the emergence of the Zika virus, I am reminded of a recent National Geographic article (January, 2016) on “Health and Climate” that maps the dramatic increase in mosquito-carried disease concurrent with the trends in rising global temperatures. For example, since 1970 dengue fever cases rank 10 times the previous average, have spread from 9 countries to 128, and now threaten 4 billion people. With the zika pandemic threat being a foreshadowing of projected risks from vector-borne disease, I wonder how a restorative leadership response might look, and how that kind of intentional engagement could lay a foundation for positive future outcomes.

Perhaps a restorative leadership response looks like those privileged enough to be planning a trip to Brazil for Carnival from other countries altering their plans because they realize the risk they pose for taking the disease not only back to their home country, but perhaps to a country less prepared than Brazil to face this issue. To understand that each action and inaction really does matter could prevent significant harm and enable the time for preparedness and response around the world.

Or perhaps a restorative leadership response looks like the pharmaceutical companies that pursue the research and development for vaccinations and cures evolving their business models toward a benefit corporation orientation: in addition to the positive intent of finding a vaccination or an inhibitor for the disease, business could be done in a way that mitigates against climate change or employs those disadvantaged by the circumstances or donates a percentage of profits to ensure the life-care of the children born with Zika-linked microcephaly. To fully embed the core values of generosity and collective responsibility into pharmaceutical business models could transform the state of the world dramatically.

Or perhaps a restorative leadership response looks like what the CDC is doing together with other agencies around the world who, in a time like this, remember what the mosquito and virus itself teach us: that borders are human constructs and that in reality we are an interconnected web of life, so we must come together as one and engage the best of our intelligence to serve collective wellbeing.

As Kurt Hahn, the German educator, once said: “We are crew, not passengers” on this global journey together. I sense that a restorative leadership response today could build our capacity to chart the best possible outcomes for all as we live into a just, sustainable and flourishing future.