Column: How Industry Leaders Should Navigate the COVID-19 Crisis

Editor's note: Mark Cadle, director of services at corrosion control solutions company MESA Products (Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA), wrote this column for industry titled "Leading in a Time of Crisis." Mark has been in the cathodic protection (CP) industry for more than 30 years and holds several NACE certifications.


By Mark Cadle, MESA Products

A few weeks ago, like most of you, I got up every day and worked my plan. Then, the pandemic hit my doorstep. It seemed like overnight, my plan on how to grow my business had come to a stop. Not to mention, it was all going well up to that point. 

We had an aggressive plan laid out for 2020, and we were starting to see it slowly bloom. It's exciting when you set some high goals and to help guide your way, you put some benchmarks along the path just to make sure you're on the right path. The one thing I've learned over the years, success and failure are slow processes. So, you had better set some benchmarks along the way to make sure the path you're on will get you to where you want to go. Then, enter stage right—COVID-19.

I'll be completely honest; I had heard about the virus, but I'm not a news watcher. I don't like any negativity in my life, and I work to eliminate it whenever and however I can. So, watching the news isn't in my daily routine. As I got caught up on the effects the virus has had on several other countries and the impact it would have on us, it was clear my plan for achieving my goals had to change. As a student of leadership, I knew those skills I have worked to develop were more needed now than ever before. The first responsibility of all leaders is to define reality.

I'm sure many of you are dealing with similar challenges, so I want to provide some key points every leader must do to ensure you set the direction for your team (vision) and chart the course out of these chaotic times.

1.) Define the Objective

Things have changed! You need to define your objectives so that everyone on the team knows what they are working to achieve. I've seen several U.S. governors do this so well. In a time of great chaos, they have all stated "Our first priority is the health and safety of those living in our state." This has required unprecedented measures we have never experienced before.

2.) People Come First

All good leaders understand that it is all about the people on your team, and not you. I can't think of a more important time for all of us to demonstrate—not through our words, but with our actions—the value of people. The steps you take to protect them, support them, and guide them through this pandemic will define you as a leader. You will either build your influence or undermine it... there is really nothing in-between.

3.) Chart the Course, Then Change as Needed

We are dealing with something where there is no "playbook," so you have to make the best decisions based on current information. (By the way, that information is changing hourly!) Pull in your people during this time and get their input. This is no time for you to think that you alone must come up with the answer. Once you have all the information, make the best decision to get to your objective. 

However, you need to understand we are dealing with a lot of unknowns. Therefore, drop your ego and listen to your people on how things are going. You must be willing to change based on the input from the folks making it happen, and make changes as needed. 

Leadership is never easy, and this crisis surely isn't making it any easier. However, it has never been more necessary for great leaders to step up and chart the course. 

Source: Mark Cadle, MESA Products,

More information from Mark Cadle is available at the NACE Communities forum, and he elaborated on this assessment with MP on a recent podcast. Tune in: