Of COVID-19, actions and theatrics in times of crisis, By Abdulwarees Solanke

Posted by News Express | 16 May 2020 | 738 times

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•Abdulwarees Solanke

I know that emergency situations or crises often serve as the opportunity to determine leadership quality in any polity. War, natural disasters, economic emergencies or pandemics are testy times when leaders need to make smart decisions. No prevarication. These are times when stakeholders’ engagement needs to be robust. No question of enemy or friends. They are times that communication needs to be strategic, coordinated, transparent, honest and simple. No time for popularity contest.

In such times of uncertainties, the best foot needs to be put forward first. Point One. Point two: I take Nigeria as a commonwealth of 37 countries. So, I expect all state governors to see themselves as national leaders in a state of emergency, not champions of primordial interest. They must take responsibility for all in a critical time, cooperating with the national government and among themselves, and if need be competing on how best to overcome situations, learning from one another, sharing resources and information, understanding the peculiarities of one another, without offending individual or collective sensibilities because ultimately the way the situation is dealt with in one state will affect the other. It is no time for blame-trading or disagreements among state actors.

With COVID-19 pandemic in the air, I was just interested in how leaders at the state level of the Nigerian polity took the situation as an opportunity to demonstrate their worth and calibre. Needing greater depth, I resorted to a study of how leaders deliver in emergencies and I found one interesting article on Leadership and Managing People section of the online edition of Harvard Business Review. The multiple-authors-article was published on April 2, 2020. Titled 4 Behaviours that help Leaders Manage a Crisis, the summary of leadership behaviours in critical situations in that informative article is as follows:

*Decide with speed over precision

*Adapt Boldly

*Reliably Deliver

*Engage for Impact.

But in an earlier edition of Harvard Business Review in January 2011, an internationally recognised coach, leadership consultant, speaker and author of some nine books, John Boldoni, recommended certain steps for the next big storm. COVID-19 is indeed a big storm for every office holder. Boldoni in that article urged leaders to take a moment to figure out what is going on, asking them to act promptly, not hurriedly. He also advised they manage expectations because when trouble strikes, people want it over right now. He further advised them to demonstrate control as when things are happening quickly, no one may have control but a leader must assume control.

Boldoni suggested that leaders should keep loose, implying that a leader cannot afford to lose composure. Succinctly, he noted, a leader cannot be wedded to a single strategy. She must continue to take in new information, listen carefully, and consult with the frontline experts to know what is happening. Another role he said leaders must assume is to provide perspective. I visited another website https://engaedely.com where I found another stimulating article, Leadership in Times of Crisis: how to lead efficiently. Posted a year ago, the authors asserted that the real test of leadership does not occur when everything is smoot-sailing.

They affirmed my view that that leadership is often tested during a crisis and added, the way a leader behaves and acts will establish their credentials as a good leader or poor one. One good advice I got from here is that a leader in time of crisis must project honesty and confidence as its authors also emphasised decisiveness and adaptability and stressed the need to control chaos, but exercise caution and stay positive.

One other article that also enthused me more is from the Centre for Creative Leadership because of its Communication-focus. It itemised five ways to lead and adapt through a crisis. First it emphasised seeking of credible information, use of appropriate communication channels, explanation of what an organisation is doing about the crisis, necessity of being present, visible and available and dedication of organisational resources for future crises. The article also stressed that relationships matter during a crisis.

From these readings, I try to contextualise these myriad of advices with behaviours of many actors in leadership at the state level in Nigeria and found all the examples of best and bad practices. There are governors who have created more enemies than friends and projected themselves in bad view about their leadership competence under this lockdown in the way they carried out their tasks as chief enforcers of the law in their states. They behaved as cavaliers. There are those who first engaged in self-denials until they were overwhelmed by the pandemic in their states.

There are those that were careless and unguarded in their utterances that portrayed them as immature for the lofty office they held. There are those who are not even acting or communicating at all while there are those who are swayed by popular sentiments in their comments and actions, lacking rationality or scientific or evidence-based research. However, there are also exceptionally brilliant ones that packed so much vigour in their frail frames and innocent looks as their actions during this lockdown portrayed them as visionary leaders with mission in government.

The lesson for all state governors from the COVID-19 pandemic is that when an emergency or crisis strikes, despite not praying for it, it is foresight and charisma that will see them through as competent leaders. These are about their sense anticipation, their readiness or preparation for emergencies and the style, content and simplicity of their communication on issues of public health, safety and environment, followed by their government’s massive investment in critical public infrastructure to for quick or smooth deployment if any emergency arises.

Without these, any state governor will merely be engaging in fire-brigade, self-deception, haranguing and harassing the public in the name of an action governor in enforcement of curfew, lockdown or stay at home orders without providing any safety net or offering any mitigation or palliatives that will portray him as a pragmatic, charismatic, proactive and sensitive leader.

So, kudos to the best and knocks for the worst performing governors as actors in leadership under COVID-19 Pandemic lockdown. Now you can name your best or worst depending on their actions or theatrics while battling this scourge that spread from Wuhan in China.

•Abdulwarees Solanke, FCIPDM, an Assistant   Director, Strategic Planning & Corporate Development at Voice of Nigeria also volunteers for the Muslim Public Affairs Centre MPAC Nigeria as Director, Media & Strategic Communication. He can be reached via 08090585723




Source: News Express

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