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How Leadership will Defeat COVID-19

Terentia Browne

Written by: Terentia Browne

5 minute read

Like many of you, I have been following the updates from around the world, keeping myself updated on how this virus is ravaging not only small villages in Italy & Spain but one of the largest states in the US as well. Instead of focusing on just the number of infections and the sad reminder of how many people have lost their lives, I have been analyzing how Leaders have shown up for their teams and country during this crisis.

It is a time when you can both learn what to do and what NOT to do as a leader in crisis. It is definitely an unprecedented time in our history, so there are no handbooks on what should be done to address Covid-19 specifically. However, this is not the first crisis the world has been faced with, so we do have some knowledge on the foundational values we need to build on during a time like this.

Leaders are navigating a turbulent storm. The waves are crashing against them but in the distance you can see the Light of Leadership burning bright. There have been a few leaders that have applied these key leadership principles and sadly there have been many who are not leading at all. To get even closer to home, I have interviewed a few of my mentors to understand what steps they are taking within their teams to navigate through this sea of uncertainty.

Image: How Leadership will Defeat COVID-19 – by Terentia Browne, Director of Career Coaching and Leadership Development

Two people who stand out for me right now, two people who embody Servant Leadership is President Cyril Ramaphosa from South Africa and the Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo. Some of their decisions may not be popular with the people but being decisive, vulnerable, transparent and teachable is needed for moving forward.

This is going to be one of those moments they're going to write about and they're going to talk about for generations
Andrew Cuomo New York Governer

From my interviews and research, I found that the following TOP 3 actions are the most important principles for leaders during a time of crisis.

1.    Put the People First

The number 1 priority of any leader is to put people first, both in the good times and the bad times. In the light of Covid-19, the most important role of the leader is to ensure the safety of their people.

Some leaders have come under fire for making tough decisions like going into lockdown, while others have been criticized for waiting too long to make this decision. Take the advice from the people around you who have a better understanding of the facts and impact. Use that information to act swiftly. Your role as a leader is to help people get through this crisis and help them become better because of it.

2.    Communicate Judiciously more than Continually

Judiciously means to use good judgement. People are looking for direction. Less talking more thinking. People want to know that you have thought through what you are asking them to do. Explain the WHY behind decisions so people understand the full picture and buy into the vision. People don’t need more communication, but they do need wise communication.

3.    Be authentic

This is what people want from leaders. They don’t want a perfect leader, but they do want an authentic one. Have you spent time earning the trust of your people or are you trying to build it during the crisis? Always tell the truth, put the people first, stay close to the people, let them see you when you speak.

The most difficult leadership challenge is leading myself.
John C. Maxwell Coach and Trainer

Encourage others by setting a good example. These things attract others to you. Manage yourself and lead by example. For example, share with your team how you are managing your mental health or your physical health. Check in with them and see if they need any support.

Remember that Uncertainty is OK. No leaders have all the answers. It’s really sad to see when leaders pretend to have all the answers during difficult and uncertain times. Keep your head above the crowd so you see the big picture.

In closing, I would like to leave you with a question. What is your greatest asset as a leader during this time of crisis?