Time Magazine India, 2021

Tackling the Global Health Crisis: 3 Top Leadership Lessons Learnt

The current global leadership

The world is watching day-to-day waves and waves of the pandemic unfurl. We are stuck between moving on and reflecting on the past. By now, millions of families have lost a loved one to the killer virus. IMF rests its hopes for a growth rate to be up 6% based on immediate policy relief and the success of the mass vaccine rollouts.

The global health crisis is intensified because the pandemic comes on top of social, civil and political unrest.

One question that does not leave my mind is — can we avoid or mitigate the human tragedy we see by offering better leadership?

What is the role of leaders when crises hit?

This aspect is something we have learned as a bitter lesson during the COVID-19 pandemic. In some countries or regions, we can see that existing problems had become worse due to the decisions made about lockdowns, vaccines and treatments.

Several dozen countries do not have access to even a single dose of vaccines even now. Let me repeat: no single vaccine dose.

The divide between those with resources, money and development to gain access, and those without, have been deeply exposed. It is inequality unfolding in front of our own eyes.

We have also seen how apathetic leadership can really cause large-scale human tragedy. At the same time, responsible leadership can save lives. Some countries have been rated as better at managing the pandemic crisis, as opposed to others.

I share three critical lessons from my observations over the past 18 months by recalling several years of on-ground leadership experiences during my time at the United Nations, where I witnessed countless challenges in some of the world’s most challenging areas.

Lesson 1 — Put First things First!

What is the difference between a problem and a crisis? A problem is something that we can control. A crisis is when the problem goes out of hand. It increases in scale, intensity, and impact to the extent that it is difficult to control.

In times of crisis, people expect leaders to rise with humility, admit mistakes and provide clear next steps.

For example, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, was lauded for how she communicated with the people at the beginning of the pandemic.

When she delivered an empathetic and unscheduled televised message at the beginning of the first wave in March 2020, she addressed her nation calmly, admitted that her East German background made her uncomfortable with the idea of restricting the freedom of her people. But she explained why doing so was necessary to get people on her side.

The sooner leaders communicate that crisis has hit, the sooner the healing process can begin. New Zealand took early and united action to combat the health crisis by isolating the population and doing contact tracing.

You may say: it is a small country. Yes, it is small, but the example is definitely great.

Lesson 2 — Provide Immediate Relief

When he took charge, Biden admitted his intention to heal. “I decided that — it was a fairly basic, simple proposition, and that is I got elected to solve problems,” Biden said at his first official news conference in March.

Leaders need to be responsible and compassionate.

Lesson 3 — Reality is the True Test.

Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker shows the current rate of doses being administered globally is more than 1.17 billion doses (7% of the population).

In particular, the United States has been speedily vaccinating over 2.29 million doses per day. Biden promised the country that 200 million vaccines for coronavirus would be administered to Americans within his first 100 days in office. And his administration achieved that goal.

Israel was first to show that mass vaccinations are the key to controlling the pandemic. It has led the world in vaccinations, and by February, more than 84% of people ages 70 and older had received two doses. Severe covid cases and deaths declined rapidly.

A separate analysis in the United Kingdom showed similar results. It remains to be seen how leadership in other countries performs.

Global leaders go on television or social media to spread hope, but also lies and fake news. However, the death toll, the pain of the population and the economic devastation do not respect hierarchical positions or political views. The numbers are the radical face of leadership and the future will tell the history.

What We Can Learn

While we are dealing with the immediate needs, we draw our lessons and prioritize what is working.

Great leaders need to admit the reality, show courage and deliver on their promises. No research study or analyst can predict what will happen in the future.

Leaders need to act fast, communicate clearly and build trust.

This is what the followers expect. Always.



Passionate about transforming ideas into action ◆Principal — Macrosolutions ◆ Board Member ◆ Author ◆ Venture Capitalist #projectmanagement #transformation

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Ricardo Viana Vargas

Passionate about transforming ideas into action ◆Principal — Macrosolutions ◆ Board Member ◆ Author ◆ Venture Capitalist #projectmanagement #transformation