On 12 October, the Whitaker Institute hosted a live webinar titled Leadership, Organizations and COVID-19. The webinar discussed the challenges of being a leader against a backdrop of radical uncertainty including the need to make 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 challenges.
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.
In the event, established leadership theories were also questioned. 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.
We were delighted to welcome three experts in the field
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
The event was chaired by Whitaker Institute member Professor Kate Kenny, cluster leader of Work, Organizations and Society.
A recording of the event is available to view below.