In an interview with Robert Costa of the Washington Post, Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked whether he thought he made any mistakes in the handling of the pandemic. He answered like the scientist that he is, saying that if that meant looking back and doing something differently, yes, he would – but because of the information that he has now. “You made a recommendation based on the information that you had at the time which is what you should be doing…When the information changes and you change what you’re saying it’s because you’re wanting to follow the evidence and the data – which is the right thing to do,” Fauci said. “So then do you call that a mistake back then? Well, back then it wasn’t a mistake because you were acting on the data you know…I look at recommendations based on data as you know it and as the data changes, then you change your recommendations.”

The National Institutes of Health is an environment where experimentation is the norm. Fauci talked frequently of how things are evolving, how we’re “only six months into it,” and how for certain things we need to keep an open mind as we are still learning about how the virus acts. He couched almost all of his answers with “based on what we know now…”

I think that Dr. Fauci has one of the worst jobs in the world these days, and yet he continues doing it with calm and grace. You would do well to emulate his mindset. Seek out new facts. Keep learning. Let the information guide you. Make the best decision at the time. Don’t be afraid to change your mind in light of evolving circumstances. Admit to not knowing all the answers. Look forward instead of looking back with regret. Don’t mislabel earlier decisions as making mistakes. Remain realistic. Point out complexities and nuances. Continue to be candid even when it’s unpopular to do so.

During the pandemic, we’ve learned a lot about what not to do, but Dr. Fauci is modeling ways of communicating that will serve you well long after the virus is tamed.



About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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