How Leaders Are Failing In The Global Pandemic
In the early 2000s leaders were found to be failing in five significant ways:
- Not being good listeners
- Not managing poor performance in the workplace
- Being resistant to change
- Not giving regular, constructive feedback
- Lack of willingness to adapt command and control leadership styles to more inclusive and collaborative leadership styles.
These were the findings of a study conducted by a global consulting firm, and our own research at AHAA!
Fast forward two decades to the current global COVID-19 pandemic and one may say that nothing has changed for the majority of leaders! My observation is that it appears to some degree to be generational as Anglo-Saxon Baby Boomer men continue to dominate key leadership positions around the world.
Some examples of their leadership failures:
- President Trump (USA) and Prime Minister Johnson (UK) not listening to their healthcare and medical experts as far back as January when they first warned of a global pandemic, resulting in delayed action to address the pandemic, causing thousands of deaths. Several global leaders continue to ignore the advice of medical specialists, thinking they know better when they don’t!
- Resisting the changes necessary to human survival, through merely putting in place stopgap or short-term measures, rather than changes to legislation, procedures, policies and processes for the long term in a more sustainable yet agile way. As certain world leaders said: “This will just magically go away.” “When it gets hotter the virus will die.” “This virus is a fantasy!” Tell this to the people who have lost loved ones.
- Pretending that everything is fine when it’s not. This means that when people have been brave enough to give feedback or disagree with leaders – they are sacked, e.g. think the White House sacking Dr Bright, a world expert on vaccinations now regarded as a whistle-blower rather than an expert trying to save lives!
- Leaders across government, business, the community and religious institutions need to set aside their own agendas and act in the interest of humanity. Local communities and some large corporates are displaying collaboration and inclusion many government leaders are not, although Australian Government made a strong move with the new Federal Cabinet, this sort of collaborative process has not been the case in other key countries This is a time when Super Powers such as China and the USA should be collaborating, sharing information, working on medical and economic solutions for the great good of humanity. Instead they are antagonising and disrespecting each other daily with shallow partisan politics and blame games whilst the scale of the tragedy continues to grow.
There is so much political jockeying for recognition of proposed strategies and announcements without action, that many people no longer believe their political leaders. The “trust deficit” is growing! For the past decade those who I have regularly interviewed or surveyed, and increasingly more than 65% of them are Generations X, Y and Z, have identified the traits of authenticity, integrity, honesty, humility and compassion as being key to the leaders they look up to. They want leaders, now more than ever, who will:
- Communicate openly, honestly and on a timely basis
- Enable change by leading by example
- Be flexible and open to different ways of working, thinking and achieving outcomes
- Collaborate, include and engage with people to achieve the most optimal outcomes for an uncertain future
- Value people and their contributions
- Demonstrate empathy
- Give more, expect less; listen more, talk less!
Leadership adaption is critical and never more so now. Leaders need to actively listen first, be open to feedback, ask for advice from those who know more/better than the leader, observe and then act! To be able to pull us all through the tough economic times ahead, command and control will not work, inspirational leaders that actively listen to those they lead and encourage ideas and solutions from the bottom up will be the success stories of this next normal.
I think Alvin Toffler expressed our current circumstances and the leadership we need best when he said:
“Our moral responsibility is not to stop the future, but to shape it … to channel our destiny in humane directions and ease the trauma of transition.”