Leading effectively during the coronavirus crisis

Even though the coronavirus is causing disruptions around the world—people hoarding supplies, markets swinging wildly, countries banning travel—there are ways for leaders to help their organizations navigate the turbulence.

Eric McNulty, associate director for the Program for Health Care Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and associate director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (NPLI), wrote a March 6, 2020 article in MIT’s Sloan Management Review that offered suggestions on how to lead effectively during a crisis such as the coronavirus. He wrote that it’s important for leaders of organizations to be adaptive to a quickly changing situation while demonstrating a strong commitment to core values and principles, to cultivate resilience in employees by being reassuring and encouraging, and to build trust by maintaining dialogue and taking concrete actions.

In an article in the March 2020 issue of Crisis Response Journal, McNulty wrote about how leaders can help people stay calm during a crisis, such as by being truthful about the situation—both in terms of what is known and what isn’t—and finding a good balance between asserting authority and working collaboratively.

In a March 3, 2020 article in HMG Strategy, McNulty said that executives who excel in crisis situations tend to prioritize people and the common good, pay attention to self-care and care of the crisis management team, and collaborate with business partners and customers.

And, in a February 10, 2020 article in Psychology Today, McNulty and co-author Leonard Marcus, lecturer on public health practice at Harvard Chan School and NPLI co-director, wrote about how leaders dealing with crises can create the best possible environments in emergency operations centers (EOCs) or “war rooms.” For example, they can make sure to work in rooms with natural light, start meetings with short mindfulness exercises, and take time outside the room to “unfocus”—such as by taking a walk outside.

Read the Sloan Management Review article: Leading Through COVID-19

Read the Crisis Response Journal article: The predictable and preventable panic of an infectious disease outbreak

Read the HMG Strategy article: CIO Leadership: Leading Courageously in Times of Crisis

Read the Psychology Today article: Are You Sabotaging Your Emergency Ops Center?