Having recently shared my thoughts – as your critical friend – on how you might strengthen your leadership during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, I thought I would check in with my latest observations.
The positive news is that ten weeks into this crisis, we now know that we can contain the spread of the virus, we can rapidly scale up our capacity in critical healthcare, and we are starting to effectively mobilise testing on the wider population. Unfortunately, we also know that the lockdown is causing huge damage to both the economy and employment prospects.
So, let’s return to my earlier suggestions and consider the latest position:
· Be clear – Continued uncertainty is making people fear for their health and their lives. People need to be fully confident to enable the UK to fully rebound from this dreadful period. It might take a vaccine to make that happen. ‘Test, track and trace’ and ‘antibody testing’ will certainly help, but are far from a panacea! Your primary objective now must be to crush uncertainty as soon as possible. Whether you push for the ‘near-zero-virus’ goal – or an alternative model – you should try to provide as much clarity and certainty as possible. Restoring confidence has to be a priority, but please be realistic and don’t let the rhetoric run away from the reality!
· Be transparent –the disparity in the reported number of deaths from COVID-19 continues. The number of registered deaths for the UK is 49,575 above the five-year average for the period 17th March-8th May (ONS). Of the deaths registered by 8th May, 37,375 mentioned COVID-19 (ONS), leaving the balance of 12,200 unexplained. Don’t you think that this disparity of ‘1 in 4’ needs to be understood – unless of course, there are other factors at play?
· Be alert – Since lockdown started in the UK, both consumers and businesses have taken an exponential leap forward in the adoption of technology. To emerge from the recovery—and thrive—many organisations – including public services – need to place the digital world at the heart of their operating models and customer strategy. How can you help promote a ‘build back better’ approach, that leverages this new digital appetite and helps let go of the past?
· Be honest – I applauded the honesty of your Chancellor of the Exchequer this week in signposting the economic reality of this crisis – with a recession, the likes of which we have never known, now a certainty. This realistic assessment of our economy has since been reinforced by major redundancy announcements across major organisations such as Rolls Royce, Ryanair and JCB, on the back of TUI and British Airways last week. The HR professional body – CIPD- has also signposted plans by more than a fifth of UK employers to make further redundancies over the next three months. This is a burning platform that needs your urgent attention!
· Be reflective – This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, with the key theme to show kindness to those in need. Small acts of kindness can reduce levels of stress and anxiety (Curry et al, 2018), whilst increasing happiness and self-esteem (Tashjiian, 2018). A caring culture is something we should all strive for. ‘Culture is the shadow of the leader’ and with that in mind, I would love to hear about your random acts of kindness this week?
One final thought as you head into the bank holiday weekend – Engage, engage, engage!
Connect and listen – directly and indirectly – to the likes of teachers, doctors, nurses, business leaders, our metro mayors, the local authority leaders, trade union leaders and the general public. Listen, hear their voices, collaborate, adapt your direction and extend your peripheral vision beyond your immediate cabinet and national advisors. You have a great opportunity to grow your reputation as well as erode it – so please act wisely!
Take good care – lead well – stay safe!