Role of effective leadership during COVID-19
While the global economic situation will decide the overall conditions for education, the community of students, teachers, parents, staff and management will need to be treated with compassion
COVID-19 has created global turmoil on an unprecedented scale. Schools, colleges and universities are facing uncertainty on multiple fronts and the long-term effects of such a colossal event are not completely understood.
The challenges, witnessed in the past few weeks are mammoth and one of-a kind. Hence, there is no user-manual to deal with it. While the education industry scrambles to contain the situation and calls on everything at its disposal, there is still a strong element of ‘learning as we go’.
This will clearly have a massive effect on all educational institutions, but there are a lot of systems and processes already in place to ramp up efforts in dealing will the fallout. However, the effect on people, students and relationships is another ball game. With our incredible diversity in region, race and socio-economic status, a one-size-fits-all approach will just not work. We will need to try different approaches at different levels, and be prepared for varied repercussions down the road.
The education industry has unique risks. There is obviously the change that is being brought about by switching to online delivery models, but there is no denying the immediate, short-term and long-term impact, whether it is faculty, students, enrolments, management or financial models. While the global economic situation will certainly decide the overall conditions for education, there is an important human element to this that will clearly need to be handled independently. The student community is now an at-risk group, with considerable fear about uncertainty and an unknown future. They need clarity and reassurance.
This is where decisive, effective and empathetic leadership has to play a key role. As leader in any capacity in the education system, we will need to prioritise what to focus on as we move forward. A few things are obvious, such as communication in a clear, calm and confident manner. Making difficult financial decisions that are in the broader interest is another important point. But beyond that, we all need to understand that the community of students, teachers, parents, staff and management still need to be treated with compassion.
And this is where each of us can shine. The contribution of everyone is valuable at all levels, but if we can, we should step up and lead in any way possible. The world needs to see us putting people before money. We need to think, evaluate and act decisively in the greater interest of everyone in education. Whether you are a student group supervisor or a CEO, keep in mind that when all this is over, you will be remembered for your actions during this time.
(Dr. Karunakar Jha, professor in Department of General Management, School of Business, is a marketing mentor working closely with CII and top incubators of India to help students become strong business leaders)