Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

By Jim Grout

Rick Hess, whose blogs are frequently posted on Education Week, is one of my favorite no-nonsense, thoughtful observers about education and life in general. Reading his recent blog entitled Five Thoughts on the Coronavirus and Schools, I was struck by how much it has to do with the world beyond schools. His focus is primarily on leadership and its importance in a time of crisis.

Dr. Anthony Fauci Getty Images

As a model of good leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hess holds up Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “…Dr. Fauci…is quickly becoming a folk hero because he appears to be honest, credible, and capable….I worry about how little we today seem to talk about the Faucis of the world or the import of competence and character.” He continues, “…this is a lousy time for a ‘business as usual’ attitude. We all need to sacrifice and cooperate.”  If not now, then when is a good time to reflect on your organization’s leadership and examine how you respond to challenges?  That’s today’s number one priority at High 5, and for the tomorrows yet to come.

Many organizations have taken a break from day-to-day operations, though leadership teams continue to meet to address immediate challenges and plan for the future. That lull in regular operations and the broader perspective forced upon us by having to cope with the unexpected challenges of a global pandemic, present an opportunity to think outside the normal box, to explore new ways of leading and decision making and shape an organizational culture based on competence and character, cooperation and collaboration, and compassion and caring.

Bringing our best selves to the job of problem-solving—and we all are faced with unprecedented problems right now—and making the best use of our resources, especially human resources, is the only way to protect our organizations and our people from the impacts of this crisis or the next, be it large or small.   I find myself continually relying upon the High 5 mantra Connect. Empower. Lead… Be the Example, because more than ever it offers a foolproof recipe to engage, motivate and inspire people to work together for the collective good.

4 Tips on How to Connect, Empower and Lead with Your Staff:

  1. Don’t start conversations by making a statement–ask a question instead.
  2. Encourage everyone to actively participate and seek insights and opinions from all.
  3. Be as transparent with information as possible and make decisions.
  4. Own your own decisions and readily admit what you don’t know.

Hess closes his article with the following thought, “We don’t know when these things (the next big challenges to our world) will happen… But it’s a safe bet that they eventually will…Addressing these challenges with foresight, maturity, and wisdom should not be a ridiculous charge for free, responsible adults in a land as rich as ours.”  

The freedom to address change has been forced upon us, but we do have responsible leaders like Dr. Fauci and so many others, and the resources to shape a better future. We cannot let this opportunity pass because remember, the children are watching.

Stay well and be safe.