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The Challenges of Leadership in Crisis Situations. Lessons of COVID-19 [21]

Experience is measured by what you have overcome in your pursuit of set objectives.

Leadership is the ability to be ahead of your circumstances, challenges, emotions, and those around you to meet an expected end. The spirit of leadership is an attitude cultivated, awakened, learnt, or a supernatural endowment. Therefore, people can be born to be leaders by inheritance, but they need to cultivate the leadership spirit—that is the knowledge of how to lead, and the expectation from those you lead.

The controversy over whether leaders or born or made has been on for years. I want to submit that leaders are born and leaders are made.

Uhuru Kenyatta was born into leadership. Barack Obama was a manufactured leader; he was deliberately crafted. Even though their fathers were Kenyan politicians, the spirit was planted in him. Prince Charles is a born leader, but princess Diana became a leader.

Life and leadership is about decision-making, action, and motivation of people to do what they would not normally have done and, to a degree, never imagined they could get to do.

Leadership must send clear messages and signals, if not, the people or followers will be confused or stagnated. Leadership involves demonstrating the message you are sending across to your listeners; if you do otherwise, they might rebel against you.

There were some observations I made about leadership in a crisis situation. COVID-19 was/is nothing like any of the present national and global leaders have experienced before. 

There were the following leadership qualities I noticed. 

C1 Conviction 

These are firm beliefs and guiding principles that one has held onto over the years, and have provided guidance for choice and decision-making. 

Leadership should not not be confused with popularity or notoriety. Leadership is not a reward; it is responsibility leading to recognition. 

The President of Brazil, in the management of the coronavirus pandemic, is playing a game of popularity by playing to his political base, while several of his citizens are dying.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is relating with Donald Trump based on conviction of what he believes is scientific. Even when his life was under threat, he still stood by his convictions. When Trump was pushing hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci stood firm that there were no trials to verify such claims. There is the pressure on Donald Trump to reopen the economy, but Fauci is insisting that it must not be done hastily. Leadership is not about being at the top, but having the ability to provide direction.

Conviction is like faith; it leads to commitment to your course of action, apart from prompt action.


Read previous Lessons From COVID-19 here.


C2 Concern 

I said in a previous lesson that Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would not put dollar signs over human lives. 

In the Old Testament, the priest had the symbolism of the Twelve Tribes of Israel over his heart and on his shoulders. 

Leadership puts the burden of the people as a load on their shoulders, and their concerns over their own emotional concerns. Autocratic leadership puts the concern of the oligarchy over that of the people. Jesus was concerned about those who had come to listen to Him for three days. The disciples said they should be sent away; they were more concerned about the cost of feeding them. However, Jesus was more concerned about their collapsing on their way home.

The Cross River State Governor used a different approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no lockdown, the use of face masks was made compulsory, and social and physical distancing rules were emphasised. The borders of the state were closed. In fact, one night the Governor spent the night at the border between his State and Akwa Ibom State. 

According to a writer, people are not interested in what you say; they are more interested if you care about them. This applies to us as religious leaders too, as well as the politicians. People cooperate with leadership in achieving set objectives if they know and feel you care.

theodore roosevelt

C3 Conflict of Interest

We run nursery, primary, and secondary schools in my town, Ughelli, in Nigeria, Schools are currently closed. There is a conflict of interest in my mind. I want schools to reopen, but I’m so scared about the safety of our pupils and students. I’m very concerned about the health of my teachers and, by extension, their parents. As I write this post, I’m cash strapped, but I do not want schools to open yet. 

The data show that the infection rate of COVID-19 has not peaked in Nigeria, and any premature total relaxation of social distancing rules will lead to a catastrophe

My convictions override my interests. 

There are people who are seeing the pandemic as an opportunity to make quick money. Facemasks and personal protective equipment imported to some countries were found to be defective and returned to China. Several test kits imported from China were found to have several false positives and negatives. Imagine the risk and pains of a false positive result to an innocent person. Imagine the consequences of a false negative result for a community. The individual will infect several people who will become symptomatic from an asymptomatic patient.

Some people will want to make quick money from procurement of equipment, drugs, and palliatives. 

Security agents were allowing vehicles to do interstate travels despite the ban of interstate travels after collecting bribes. Enugu State got a new case recently who was diagnosed in Kano, but travelled all the way to Enugu State.

In leadership, you must put the interest of humanity and posterity uppermost in mind. You must think of the legacy you will leave behind. Don’t think of the immediate gratification or the next election.

I was the chairman of a committee, and someone suggested a sitting allowance to be paid to us. I objected. I told him that I will not want our grandchildren to read the minutes of our sitting, years later, and find out that we collected a sitting allowance for what we did for our community.

C4 Confusion 

I have never seen the world in a more confused state as it is currently, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the novel nature of the virus, very little is known about it. Nobody is very sure of what will work in terms of treatment or management. 

At a point, intubation and the use of ventilators looked like the ultimate solution, but research later showed that a great percentage of those intubated died. People started rejecting intubation and use of ventilators. 

When there is confusion, as a leader, do the following:

  1. Consult from specialists
  2. Cost-benefit analysis 
  3. Compare your situation with others 
  4. Calm down 
  5. Consult your spirit man

I am able to write these posts on a daily basis because I take time to pray in the spirit and wait for the idea. You might call it eidetic intuition or emergent intuition, but I always get an idea of what to write in my bathroom in the morning. 

  1. Take collective decisions with enlightened minds
  2. Constantly review your decisions and their outcomes. 

Don’t be hesitant to make amendments. 

C5 Chaotic Leadership 

I have observed that when a leader has no firm convictions, has (a) personal interest(s), and is not ready to take decisions with the interest of the people uppermost in his/her mind, chaos is inevitable. 

Politicians like to portray a picture of working with experts in various fields. 

One of the governors in Nigeria, I know, has special assistants and senior special assistants for almost everything. Many of these appointments are rewards for loyalty or eye-service. 

The average politician does not take counsel from their advisers seriously. 

There is a conflict of ideas and purpose between Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci. He just said that Anthony Fauci wants to play in all sides of the equation when it comes to the reopening of schools. 

The Minister of Health in the Brazilian Government had to resign when the President, Bolsonaro, refused to follow scientific counsel, and he is playing to the gallery. 

As a leader, political, business, or religious, try as much as possible that you and your followers or advisers are on the same page. One of the problems with dictatorships is that they try to suppress any dissenting voices, no matter how reasonable they sound. Good leaders listen to their advisers but they also listen to the voices of the people, if not, there will be chaos.

This decade is going to be a constantly-changing and confusing generation. I believe these principles will be of use to you. 

God bless you.


Read next lesson: Time is an Impartial Judge.

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