Leadership in the context of Covid-19

Covid-19 pandemic is the biggest global crisis in recent history. It has come suddenly, bringing considerable levels of uncertainty and affecting every area of our lives.

The pandemic has posed many serious challenges, including some on a scale unprecedented in this century. Political, business and community leaders have responded in different ways.

Globalisation allows us to compare the solutions presented by different governments, to analyse decisions made by CEOs and others in positions of authority and to draw conclusions.

Listening to the captivating conversation of our panellists is a great opportunity to access their insights about leadership in these turbulent times of change.

Our speakers from the fifth and final Conversations of our time event share their key aspects of leadership:

‘Qualities that leaders should have right now: integrity, vulnerability and transparency’

Steven “Flow” Pacheco, Co-Founder of digital marketing agency, Black Crown Media (and participant in the British Council’s Future Leaders Connect programme)

  • Integrity means being accountable for your actions, being trustworthy, especially when the decisions you make affect a lot of people, as in the case of the US President. Steven sees their decisions as having far-reaching consequences across the globe and believes they have shown a lack of integrity, with negative consequences for the USA and its relationships with other nations.
  • Steven points out that an absence of transparency in decision-making is psychologically damaging for the people you lead. They experience higher levels of anxiety and insecurity because of the uncertainty of their situation. Steven refers to the current US Presidency as an example of this process. Moreover, Steven believes that misinformation in the USA has led to a worsening of racial tensions
  • When it comes to vulnerability, Steven highlights that no matter what position a person is in we are all human and make mistakes. Therefore, it’s important to be vulnerable and admit your wrongdoings. That way, the people you lead will be more confident in the next steps you choose to take.

'Inclusiveness and diversity lead to better decision-making'

Caroline Maher, youngest female member of the Egyptian parliament (also, participant in the British Council’s Future Leaders Connect programme)

  • Including people in decision-making brings new ideas and perspectives, leads to better problem-solving, innovation and creativity. Having a clear vision that is shared allows everyone in the team to see a bigger picture and focus on what’s important.
  • Women constitute 50 percent of the world working population, yet they are often left behind. Caroline advocates for gender-sensitive laws and budgets, eradication of the pay gap and above all creating a culture where diversity is accepted and seen as a source of positive benefit.  
  • Scientific studies have shown that empathetic and compassionate leaders tend to perform better, highlights Caroline. They inspire more loyalty, engagement and productivity.
  • Referring to young people’s participation in policy and decision-making, Caroline gives examples of the changes that have taken place in the last ten years in Egypt. She draws on her own experiences when the Constitution was changed in 2014 and the minimum age for parliamentarians was reduced to 25. This gave her an opportunity to become a Member of Parliament. Caroline refers to the National Youth Conference, held annually since 2016, which includes a live question and answer session with Egypt’s President. However, the most important development of recent years (since the revolution of 2011) has been the growth of not-for-profit organisations created by young people in support of positive social change.

'Leaders can either step up or avoid reality and give up'

Lilian Seenoi-Barr, founder and Programme Director of North-West Migrants Forum, Derry / Londonderry, Northern Ireland (partner organisation in the British Council’s Active Citizens programme)

  • Stepping up for Lilian means doing the right thing, even if that’s unpopular at the time. She gives the example of support for the Black Lives Matter movement in Northern Ireland, where many people (especially in settled and traditional communities) have been unaware of the racial injustices experienced by others on a daily basis. It was not easy to take the decision to hold a rally in the middle of the pandemic, in places where 99 percent of the population are white, but it was necessary to highlight systemic racism.
  • What has been most useful for Lilian, in facing the challenges of leadership, is her support network. She emphasises the benefits of working with like-minded people and listening to the advice of trusted colleagues and friends. Access to constructive criticism, which can help a leader realise when they are in the wrong, has been absolutely essential.
  • On keeping up energy and determination, Lilian stresses the importance of self-care. People make a lot of mistakes when they are tired and trying to do things under pressure. Although leaders may want to be always present alongside their teams, it’s crucial to find time to switch off, replenish your energy and come back stronger.


Keep up with Conversations of our time

The 2020 series of the Conversations of our time events has come to an end. Over the last five months we have explored key topics and challenges faced by people in communities worldwide during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Our diverse panels, drawing on respected thought-leaders from around the world, have shared their ideas and practical approaches to these problems.

We hope you have found yourself stimulated to take on new ways of thinking and inspired to take positive action.

Please keep sharing your reflections on the events and issues discussed on social media using the hashtag, #ConnectedbyConversations.

If you missed any of the events, you will find all the materials we produced on the Conversations of our Time webpages. We will be back with a new series in 2021. Watch this space!

See also