MUKONO – Yoweri Museveni has been praised for taking decisive measures against the pandemic even before Uganda registered a case of the virus. The President with advise from the minister of health, declared a lockdown around the entire country, during the first 14 days. Now that another 3-week extension has been put in place, Ugandans must brace themselves for a really difficult huddle before them. Coronavirus has affected all aspects of our lives and the constant news about the pandemic can feel never-ending. Many people are experiencing heightened feelings of uncertainty, unrest and loneliness. While these feelings are completely understandable, given the unprecedented nature of the situation, it’s important for everyone especially those that are predisposed to mental health conditions to learn how to cope and manage any stress being experienced. Many leaders don’t always believe the likelihood of a crisis happening in their countries. Consequently, they are underprepared not just for managing crisis situations once they occur, but also for leading nations in turbulent times with a vision that they and their countries may be positively transformed by the experience. Below are some of the competencies that any leader must possess amid any crisis most especially during this Covid-19 pandemic.
All leaders must be ready to communicate effectively. Listening openly to others enables leaders to encourage the sharing of information and ideas, as well as concerns hence becoming effective. Processing information is crucial to being a good leader. It is vital to be able to get to the point, weigh the pros and cons, and evaluate short and long range consequences of decisions. It helps leaders develop logical and clear conclusions. Ultimately, leaders must express themselves clearly in writing and speaking. They need to be thorough, concise, and consistently straightforward when sharing information and their vision with others. Explicitly communicating what you expect of others is imperative. Inferences and other implicit communication open the door to misunderstandings and misperceptions.
Crisis leadership involves the ability to make wise and rapid decisions. Traditional approaches to decision making involves information gathering, generating alternatives, evaluating those alternatives and reaching a decision. During times of crisis, however, this traditional approach is less relevant in that it assumes access to complete information and unlimited time, neither of which is usually available in crisis situations. The key to decision making in times of crisis, then, is to gather as much input from a wide variety of sources as time will allow, and then make a decision in light of the information gathered and the leader’s own insight. An effective leader knows when the time is right to initiate action and achieve results. Leaders handle problems assertively and make timely as well as firm decisions. They must know how to overcome obstacles for achievement and set high standards that positively impact the country. To help leaders make difficult decisions, we encourage them to think long-term. In addition, we suggest that they think about the situation on their own before consulting others.
Another competency of leadership is to take courageous actions. Executives consistently rate courage as a crucial competency and a desired trait for future leaders. In times of crisis, however, the tendency to become risk averse is strong. There is already so much ambiguity associated with the crisis situation, and its impending outcome, that leaders attempt to counter that risk by becoming extra conservative in their response to it. Crisis leaders, on the other hand, will embrace the opportunity to think and act big, yet responsibly. This often entails making decisions and adopting behavior that is counter-intuitive or that goes above and beyond what might be mandated by the situation.
If there is no trust, decision making and strategy implementation are doomed to fail. While the failures may not be immediate, they are imminent. Quite often, we cannot underestimate the human element we lead. Successful leaders instill trust, provide direction, and delegate responsibility. Ultimately, leadership is about producing the desired results. Building and instilling trust enables a leader to show they can be trusted to keep confidential information. It also shows that they are honest and ethical. Leaders provide direction by establishing clear expectations and developing a manageable workload to accomplish those expectations. A leader must be ready to delegate responsibility to the appropriate people. Leaders empower others to work and solve problems on their own. Building a foundation of trust also involves managing expectations. Setting high expectations presumes that leaders trust the abilities of those around him or her. Generally, people are more likely to perform at high levels when leaders display trust in their competence and abilities. Conversely, they are likely to underperform when low expectations are set. In short, building trust establishes a platform upon which the remaining crisis leadership competencies are based.
The writer is a student of Dental Surgery at Uganda Christian University.