Post-Pandemic Strategies: Choosing Between Leading From the Front and Leading From Behind
The most important aspect of the unseen future is leadership.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic has caused immense loss to the world, it has also led to the exposure of existing leadership flaws, insomuch that it is no longer a matter of debate that governments have to do some self-introspection to find ways to lead their nations better. Leadership has been revealed as a severe problem by how political leaders responded to such a disaster.
The best science and health care resources are only as good as decision-makers make them be. Given that two of the most significant global superpowers in scientific research, economic muscle, military base and medical resources, namely the U.S. and the U.K., have seen the highest number of infections and fatalities, any analysis cannot help find answers through leadership. The U.S., for instance, lost more lives to Covid-19 in three months than it did in the Vietnam War in ten years. With its renowned advancement in technology and medical resources, this seems impossible, but it is the reality.
More so, the pandemic has left a mountain to climb for leaders as they have to bring people back together. Although technology has played a significant role in ensuring that the world stays in touch and that the lockdown has managed to enable families to stay together, physical contact cannot be overemphasized. The long days spent indoors have led to high-stress levels, and infighting has been rife in families. Although social media has provided a platform for the world to stay in touch, it has also allowed populists to spray mud on the governments' image. Fake horror news has circulated and made its way into the already fear-gripped masses.
While it can be said that the Covid-19 pandemic affected economies globally, it is also transparent that a tiny percentage of the national population has acquired the lion's share of the economy. While the rest of the citizenry was locked in their homes and out of their income sources, the ruling political elite has been working, and speculation has been going viral that politicians were using foreign aid for personal gain. This has caused tensions, with some populists calling for demonstrations against the government. This again poses a severe challenge to governments as they formulate post-Covid-19 strategies, especially leadership style choices.
With everything being put under the government's power, the political leaders now face a dilemma about moving forward after the pandemic. With the people now hungry for freedom, can governments hand back control to the people, or is there a need for a transition? That remains to be seen. Masses have lost not only their jobs but their patience as well. In a world defined by bureaucratic principles, governments take longer than necessary to deliver services to the nation.
Who is a leader?
In ancient times, a leader was defined as an individual who would lead his group at the frontline to accomplish an intended task. Warfare and hunting were the most common expeditions in early times, and the leader would lead from the front. This gave an idea that leadership was all about being at the front, so leadership was always from the front. The leader would be seen as always the first to develop an idea, establish plans of action and see that the idea was implemented. Traditional leadership focused only on the leader, and followers were seen as simply recipients of the leader's influence. As time progressed, unprecedented upheavals have called for leaders to reform their leadership thoughts and develop something better.
While the most commonly used definition of leadership has not changed, it is essential to note that leadership's contextual meaning has changed immensely over time. Traditional leadership is in line with this definition, which is the act of influencing a group of people to behave in a manner that leads to achieving one goal. However, contemporary leadership has to be something more than that if the leader is to become effective. Contemporary leadership has to involve the leader being able to influence behavior and the mind. The new view of leadership now looks at it as a co-created process in social interactions between people.
This new view of leadership has given rise to followership, emphasizing the active role that followers' characteristics and behaviors play in the leadership phenomenon. While traditional leadership research focuses more on a good leader's traits, current research has moved further to look at a good follower's characteristics. Good followers are engaged and willing to support a good leader while opposing an immoral and unethical leader.
Leadership is a concrete phenomenon whose structures and methods are dynamic as they change over time. Therefore, leaders from all areas need to make changes to face the new environment effectively. Leadership has to be flexible so that leaders and followers do not get stuck in old policies and procedures that no longer relate to new situations. This means that even previously abandoned styles have to be reviewed against the demands of new conditions.
Policymakers, especially those at the highest level, face the most complex decision-making challenge. In a society of vast diversity, it is simply impossible to please everyone. The very thought that whatever decision they make will impact millions, if not more, of people in terms of health, education and even lives, carry a burden too heavy for any ordinary person. With the advent of technology, almost every complaint from citizens can reach the ear of the policymaker. Therefore, as leaders, they have a responsibility to minimize the objections of their people.
The Covid-19 pandemic, though reportedly predicted by both scientific and religious Cassandras, came as a devastating shock to a world that had been used to pandemics that affect only some parts of the world. People hardly believed that the pandemic would throw the whole world into lockdown. Almost everything was affected. New laws had to be put in place by governments to curb the dreadful disease's rapid transmission. It is common practice that in any substantial disaster, leaders have to use dictatorial leadership. While democracy has been favored, especially by human rights groups, the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic was just not a case of pleasing the majority but a matter of saving the majority. Therefore leaders, particularly political leaders, had to use a stricter stance to ensure the survival of as many as possible.
Related: The Problems With Servant Leadership
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor