The coronavirus pandemic is a global test of leadership

The coronavirus pandemic is a global test of leadership

Vernon White, The Strategist

AIPM 2017 Visiting Fellow Vernon White is presently a sitting Senator in the Senate of Canada and Visiting Fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

"We will see many things that frighten us as we walk along the various threads of the coronavirus pandemic. But whether it’s about panic shopping, closed borders or social distancing, it will be the leadership or lack of leadership that will stick in our minds when we come out the other end. People in leadership roles usually inherit the system they’re leading and are often handed the situations they find themselves in. As this pandemic stretches our leaders, we’ll find out whether they can make the necessary adjustments to enable us to thrive rather than just survive.

The ability of leaders to shift their thinking and the thinking of those around them will be key to our successfully managing our personal and professional lives through the current crisis. To do that, these leaders, our leaders, will have to grasp the need for a change in thinking focused on actions that can create and achieve the best results.

Being inspired is important, but it must be more than simply inspiration, which often ends after the ‘feel-good period’. Instead, we will need to see transformation to successfully traverse this extreme situation. There may be no better quote than this: ‘Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’ We find ourselves with no clear path, but with an expectation that leaders will make one for all of us.

It’s clear that there’s panic—we all fear what we have seen elsewhere and what we are now experiencing in our own communities. However, that panic can be a short-lived if leaders can assuage the intense anxiety, while showing us that they are in control and are making decisions that will have a positive impact. We know that in battling this pandemic leaders will have to make decisions quickly and  implement the steps required to try to stay ahead of the virus. We are better off overreacting and apologising than underreacting and being sorry."

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Vernon White, The Strategist, 2020