What Good Leadership Looks Like During This Pandemic

What Good Leadership Looks Like During This Pandemic

Michaela J. Kerrissey and Amy C. Edmondson | Harvard Business Review

"The speed and scope of the coronavirus crisis poses extraordinary challenges for leaders in today’s vital institutions. It is easy to understand why so many have missed opportunities for decisive action and honest communication. But it is a mistake to think that failures of leadership are all we can expect in these grim times.

Consider Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA), who — way back on March 11 — took the then-surprising step of suspending the professional basketball league for the season. Silver’s decision was one of the earliest high-profile responses to the virus outside China. He delivered it at a time of great uncertainty; coincidentally, March 11 was the day that the World Health Organization formally designated the coronavirus a pandemic.

When the situation is uncertain, human instinct and basic management training can cause leaders — out of fear of  taking the wrong steps and unnecessarily making people anxious — to delay action and to downplay the threat until the situation becomes clearer. But behaving in this manner means failing the coronavirus leadership test, because by the time the dimensions of the threat are clear, you’re badly behind in trying to control the crisis. Passing that test requires leaders to act in an urgent, honest, and iterative fashion, recognizing that mistakes are inevitable and correcting course — not assigning blame — is the way to deal with them when they occur."

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Michaela J. Kerrissey and Amy C. Edmondson, Harvard Business Review, 2020