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Leadership, Organizations and COVID-19

October 12, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Location: via Zoom, NUI Galway
Galway, Ireland

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What a time to be a leader. Against a backdrop of radical uncertainty, leaders in politics and education, public and private sectors find themselves making rapid decisions. Available information changes fast, and is often based on contested evidence. Meanwhile anxious employees and stakeholders seek guidance and some sense of certainty amid the chaos. The challenges are significant, to say the least.
These challenges have impacts on people’s lives. In politics, the ambiguity accompanying Covid-19 continues to be exploited by populist leaders worldwide. In business, the corporate social responsibility initiatives that many have celebrated over the past ten years, are now being tested to their limits. Demands of those with short-term, profit-driven interests are pitted against longer-term concerns including the health and well-being of employees, customers and other stakeholders. In the public sector including education, the implicit contract of public service is likewise being challenged, as traditional funding sources dry up.

Established leadership theories are also in question. For some, the pandemic marks the end of the traditional, masculine model of leadership in which power ought to be centralized, and decision-making unilateral. Instead, we see examples of strong feminine leaders coming to the fore, with collaborative and empathetic approaches winning out. For others, such claims of a paradigm shift are premature.
Overall we can say that Covid-19 is a public health crisis that is also proving a crisis of leadership. And yet it is clear that we need ‘strong leadership’ — whatever this may be — now more than ever.


Gazi Islam, Professor of Business Administration at Grenoble Ecole de Management.
Jackie Ford, Professor of Leadership and Organisation Studies, Durham University Business School
Dennis Tourish, Professor of Leadership and Organisation Studies, University of Sussex
Chaired by Professor Kate Kenny, NUI Galway