3 leadership lessons from the age of coronavirus

coronavirus 2020 virus

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Harry Kretchmer, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • Female leaders including New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern have provided strong leadership models during COVID-19.
  • It’s thought compassionate leadership can help sustain productivity gains.
  • Research also shows agile organizations have performed best during the pandemic.

COVID-19 has provided us with many lessons in crisis management. Many of the most successful leaders and companies have demonstrated strong people skills, pivoting their organizations by supporting employees and listening to what customers want.

Many of these lessons could help future-proof organizations for the uncertain road ahead. Here are three of the most important:

COVID-19 cases and deaths.
COVID-19 cases and deaths: Comparing female-led and male-led countries with similar populations
Image: VoxEU/Garikipati & Kambhampati

1. Lead with empathy and honesty

It has often been reported that nations led by women have handled the crisis well, particularly in the case of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Indeed, many countries with female leaders have, so far, experienced lower death rates than their neighbours – compare Germany’s 11 deaths per 100,000 people to France’s 45 and the United Kingdom’s 70. But are women leaders really the reason?

Two economics professors who gave female-led countries a “nearest neighbour analysis” think so. Supriya Garikipati and Uma Kambhampati studied coronavirus cases and death rates, as well as variables including population size and spending on health, and found outcomes to be “systematically better” in countries led by women.

A key factor identified is that female-led countries locked down earlier. This could be, they speculate, because women leaders were more risk-averse about the impact of the virus on the population than men. They also say decisive and clear communication and participative leadership styles could have played a part.

It’s true not all countries led by women have had low death rates – Belgium’s is among the highest in the world. And comparing nations can be tricky. But there does seem to be a valuable leadership lesson here: empathy, warmth and transparency serve an important purpose – whomever they come from.

2. Be agile

‘Agility’ is everywhere in management guides. Harvard Business Review (HBR) says John Deere uses it to develop new machines, and National Public Radio makes programmes that way. So what exactly is agility?

HBR puts it this way: agile is about “taking people out of their functional silos and putting them in self-managed and customer-focused multidisciplinary teams.” In other words, it’s highly adaptable to the multiple and rapidly evolving demands of a crisis like COVID-19.

coronavirus, health, COVID19, pandemic

What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died due to the virus.

As countries seek to recover, some of the more long-term economic, business, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.

To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, has launched its COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications – a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.

The report reveals that the economic impact of COVID-19 is dominating companies’ risks perceptions.

Companies are invited to join the Forum’s work to help manage the identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across industries to shape a better future. Read the full COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications report here, and our impact story with further information.

But do agile models deliver? McKinsey analysed 25 companies that had recently undergone an agile transformation. Their agile units responded better to COVID-19 shocks than non-agile units based on customer satisfaction, employee engagement and operational performance.

The trouble is, leaders might be the ones holding back agile gains. HR consultant Mercer says while 78% of employees say they are ready to reskill, executives believe only 45% of their workforce can adapt. Mercer calls this a “mental block”. It also thinks agility will dominate management discussions this year as companies look to rebound and reinvent.

A caring culture
Image: HR Executive.com

3. Value your people

Businesses that have managed to ride out the COVID-19 storm need to ask themselves how they did it.

Sure, foresight and an agile mindset have been vital, but so has attending to the asset on which organizations are built – their people. Without them, nothing else is possible. Whether home-workers juggling childcare and Zoom calls, delivery drivers taking on extra shifts or nurses going to hospital despite the risks, people everywhere have stepped up.

Experts put this in different ways. UN Assistant Secretary-General Kanni Wignaraja calls on leaders to recognize that the pandemic means “everyone is having their own ups and downs”. British health think tank the King’s Fund urges compassionate leadership and says this means “paying attention to all staff, truly listening to them and being present with them.”

The best leaders have already been doing this, often using digital technology to improve communication. Chief Executive magazine advocates “weekly CEO webinars, daily team huddles, skip level calls and virtual happy hours” to create “people first” organizations.

Trust is also central. Before the pandemic, research by Mercer found that many companies didn’t trust their employees to work from home. But going forward, the OECD suggests organizations look to establish trust-based relationships with staff, in order to realize the potential productivity gains of home-working. Trust could speed the recovery.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Make this the year of ‘transformative solutions’ to avert disastrous climate change: UN Deputy Chief

Women in medical leadership: future perspectives of medicine

Further reforms in Sweden can drive growth, competitiveness and social cohesion

Robot inventors are on the rise. But are they welcomed by the patent system?

Brazilian officer a ‘stellar example’ of why more women are needed in UN peacekeeping

Commissioner McGuinness announces proposed way forward for central clearing

Syria: Commissioner Lenarčič visits Turkish border and calls for renewal of UN cross-border resolution

4 principles for securing the digital identity ecosystem

UN chief praises New Zealand premier’s ‘admirable’ response to Christchurch attacks

Why 2020 is a turning point for cybersecurity

COVID-19 tests rely on bacteria discovered in a natural pool in the 1960s – and it’s not the only slice of nature essential to medicine

Migration: Commission refers HUNGARY to the Court of Justice of the European Union over its failure to comply with Court judgment

Q&A: A on the EU COVID-19 certificate

Working with millennials, leaders say humility works better than bossing around

How Abu Dhabi found a way to grow vegetables in 40-degree heat

Russia and the EU ‘trade’ natural gas supplies and commercial concessions in and out of Ukraine

Eurozone’s central bank leadership prepares for shoddier prospects

Workplace bullies could now go to jail in South Korea

Biggest ever UN aid delivery in Syria provides relief to desperate civilians

Negotiations on new EU collective redress rules to begin

Why we are using these custom-built drones to collect whale snot

For video game addiction, now read official ‘gaming disorder’: World Health Organization

Ebola cases rising in DR Congo, but UN health agency cites progress in community trust-building

Antibiotics are contaminating the world’s rivers

British PM May’s Brexit proposal remains obscure while her government unravels

The EU Parliament blasts the Council about the tax dealings of the wealthy

5 lessons from Africa on how drones could transform medical supply chains

More people now plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine than in December

Turkey: Commission continues humanitarian support for refugees

Only one in five countries has a healthcare strategy to deal with climate change

Africa must use tech to chase corruption out of the shadows

Mergers: Commission approves Assa Abloy’s acquisition of Agta Record, subject to conditions

World’s human rights watchdog spotlights Afghanistan, Yemen and 12 others: Here’s the scoop

US-China trade war: Washington now wants control of the renminbi-yuan

ECB: Growth measures even before the German elections

Z, V or ‘Nike swoosh’ – what shape will the COVID-19 recession take?

Cultural diversity can drive economies. Here are lessons from India and South Asia

EU Member States test their cybersecurity preparedness for free and fair EU elections

This is how music festivals are tackling plastic waste

Malta: Human rights experts call for justice in case of murdered journalist

3 things to know about women in STEM

Q and A: This is how stakeholder capitalism can help heal the planet

10 months were not enough for the EU to save the environment but 2 days are

These are the top 10 emerging technologies of 2019

Why EU’s working and unemployed millions remain uncertain or even desperate about their future

Europe again the black sheep at the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors

FROM THE FIELD: Changing world, changing families

The relationship between Dengue and the rainfall in Boa Vista, Brazil

EU, Canada and China co-host international meeting on climate cooperation and a sustainable economic recovery

Why is black plastic packaging so hard to recycle?

Raising the Scope of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in Vulnerable Populations

Companies can help solve water scarcity. Here’s how

A new bioeconomy strategy for a sustainable Europe

Giving humanitarian help to migrants should not be a crime, according to the EP

European Solidarity Corps: three years on

Marriage equality boosted employment of both partners in US gay and lesbian couples

The West and Russia accomplished the dismembering and the economic destruction of Ukraine

State aid: Commission approves €1.4 billion Swedish scheme to support uncovered fixed costs of companies affected by coronavirus outbreak

Gaza: deadly violence continues to escalate, top UN officials work to restore calm

EU food watchdog: more transparency, better risk prevention

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: