In times of crisis, strong leaders are of the utmost importance. We look to our leaders to demonstrate how we should respond to the issues at hand and guide us in the right direction. COVID-19 is a global crisis that requires the attention and efforts from leaders worldwide.
However, more than half a year into this pandemic, we are still awaiting strong global leadership. In the past six months, we have seen unimaginable changes to how we live. Countries have gone into lockdown, we’ve changed the way we interact with our closest friends and family, how we work and how we socialize.
Around the world there have been incredible acts of kindness, bravery, and sacrifice. Communities have come together and health workers and other key workers have moved mountains to save lives and keep society moving.
But sadly, what has been less impressive has been the continued failure of leaders and governments around the world to come together to agree on a global approach to beat the virus. And that failure means it continues to spread, and continues to wreck lives and livelihoods in every corner of the planet.
A global pandemic demands a global response… but we haven’t come close to delivering one.
What does global leadership in a pandemic look like? ONE has identified 10 qualifications that we need to see from global and local leaders, including international cooperation, investing in long-term preparedness, inspiring action, and ultimately, creating a single, unified response.
There are shining examples to showcase for each qualification, but we need more. Leaders, here is what we MUST see from you:
Leaders must step up globally and locally
Leaders across the world need to step up globally and locally, particularly in response to COVID-19. Good leaders know and understand that diseases do not respect borders and pandemics are bigger than politics. It takes a unified local and global approach to have an effective impact.
Leaders must form a dream team
As the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work. In times of crisis, leaders should pool resources and work with relevant experts to solve problems in order to create a dream team to effectively respond to the crisis at hand.
Leaders must take decisive action
Make decisions!!! Decision making is a fundamental task of being a leader. People look to local, national, and international leaders to make decisions on issues and topics. With a crisis like COVID-19, the world needs to pull together and form collaborative leadership that is visible, competent, reassuring, and compassionate to make effective decisions. These leaders must act with a sense of urgency to take decisive action and help combat the crisis.
Leaders must earn credibility
Leaders must rely on science and evidence-based public health practices, and must track progress in order to earn the proper credibility when responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Relying on those aforementioned factors can help leaders better understand the crisis at hand and respond appropriately.
Leaders must communicate clearly and consistently
Communication is key in any situation, but it’s even more important for those in leadership positions. In order to successfully address a crisis like COVID-19, leaders must clearly and consistently communicate about how they are responding and what is needed from everyone in order to respond to the crisis appropriately.
Leaders must be honest
Honesty is the best policy. In order to achieve success, leaders must be honest and upfront. They should deal with any missteps and remain focused on solving problems while being as transparent as possible to their communities in their responses.
Leaders must address human and economic costs
COVID-19 has affected almost every aspect of what was once considered “normal life.” To be successful in their roles, leaders must be willing and able to address both the human and economic costs of the outbreak, as there are many, and more to come.
Leaders must engage with all groups in a community
Communities are at the root of leadership roles — one cannot exist without the other. To create an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders must engage with all groups within their communities through innovative ways. Sometimes, just speaking from a platform isn’t enough — leaders must dive in deep to really understand the impact of a crisis and respond effectively.
Leaders must empathize with those who are suffering
In order to be a good leader, one must understand the challenges everyone in their community is facing. To successfully tackle COVID-19, leaders must empathize with those who are suffering and recognize the sacrifices of essential workers and disproportionately affected citizens. A better understanding of the challenges they face during this pandemic will enable a leader to better understand all aspects of the crisis at hand and create a successful response.
Leaders must invest in long-term preparedness
Pandemics and diseases don’t respect borders or timelines — and one thing we know for sure is that health crises — even pandemics like COVID-19 — will one day happen again. To prepare for the future, leaders must invest in the building blocks of long-term preparedness. COVID-19 creates an urgent imperative to push for global and national reforms, meaning that leaders must take the time to understand how we can combat a similar crisis in the future.
World leaders must heed the COVID-19 outbreak as an opportunity to break the cycle of panicked response and invest in the building blocks of long-term preparedness. This will require international cooperation, long-term funding, and a commitment to learning and adapting our collective tools. But above all, this will require discipline to focus on health systems when they are not in crisis, and to prioritize prevention when the payoff is not visible.
We need leaders to step up now to address the COVID-19 pandemic and build back stronger, more equal, and more prepared.