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Leadership Observatory: Issue 11

27 August 2020

Image: Liz and Serah. Image credit Griffith University

Trust – often formed based on perception and earned over time, especially in a leadership context. In this #LeadershipObvs we see how research teams have recalibrated to respond to COVID-19 priorities and how New Zealand successfully kept COVID-19 at bay by building trust in leaders and authorities. We also look at why women leaders are still not receiving recognition which reflects their impact and influence, and governments in Central Asia risk breaching privacy regulations to acquire additional data on day-to-day movements of their citizens.

Sam Kinyanjui and Sharon Fonn, ‘Africa’s research capacity is growing. That’s good news for pandemic response efforts’, The Conversation, 21 July 2020.

Research capacity has been heavily restricted due to the effect of the pandemic and has increased the attention to the contribution that local researchers can make. A recent survey of the African Research Coalition for Health (ARCH) – a large African research coalition revealed how researchers had quickly mobilised their expertise and resources towards the COVID-19 response – launching clinical trials, training, guidelines. The development of strong collaborations between the consortia and local ministries of health has enabled effective collective leadership allowing local experts and researchers to align their expertise, research resources, infrastructures and links with the needs of health agencies.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Local research leadership and consortia have collectively enabled the rapid redirection of expertise and research resources to respond to the pandemic.

Sugandha Parmar, ‘South Asia’s women leaders on gender equality and COVID-19’, SOAS, 17 July 2020.

Debates about women’s leadership a dominated by female leaders in New Zealand, Germany, and Norway. Parmar argues that other levels of leadership deserve focus where female leaders continue to remain invisible. Parmar usefully details how female leaders – from Heads of villages, and Members of Legislative Assembly, to Mayors – are displaying an alternative style of leadership that emphasises communication, collaboration, preparedness, and inclusion and empathy.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Effective sub-national women’s leadership displays communication, collaboration, preparedness, and inclusion and empathy.

Kenneth P. Ruscio, ‘Leaders like Trump fail if they cannot speak the truth and earn trust’, The Conversation, 8 July 2020.

Ruscio argues trust is a key virtue for any leader to preside over a government of, by and for the people. In a crisis citizens grant discretion to leaders to make decisions. But discretion depends upon trust which is a function of competency, honesty and commitment to the public interest. As the coronavirus crisis continues, citizens may start to see the value in competence over other leaders who place value on being popular and are interested in the theatre of politics and not interested in governing.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Citizens trust leaders who act in the public interest, not their own self-interest.

Eleanor Ainge Roy, ‘New Zealand beat COVID-19 by trusting leaders and following advice – study’, The Guardian, 23 July 2020.

Research from Massey University suggests that trust in leaders in New Zealand led to nearly 100% compliance with basic hygiene practices such as handwashing. This is despite the economic costs and human costs of the crisis. One of the authors, Jagadish Thaker, argues that “Simple, clear health messages, communicated with kindness and empathy, resonate with people, even when they are demanding tough changes.” Leader compassion, reducing the spread of fake news and knowledge sharing have been fundamental to reducing virus transmission. The study reports that trust forms the basis for compliance, without it, leaders lose their following, and the effect of communication is reduced.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: New research shows that trust in leaders in New Zealand led to nearly 100% compliance with basic hygiene practices.

Edward Lemon and Bradley Jardine, ‘Across Central Asia, Police States Expand Under the Cover of COVID-19’, World Politics Review, 14 July 2020. (paywall)

In Central Asia, new technology for preventing transmission of COVID-19 has led to an investigation into personal privacy. The app can listen to phone conversations, monitor data usage, and even control the handset. Political leaders are encouraged to manage access to data sensitively and legally to avoid breaching citizens rights. With enhanced surveillance capacity, Central Asian governments can crackdown on illegal activities and therefore create a more constricted political environment.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Boundaries to personal privacy are redefined with new STOP COVID-19 trace apps using data collected from mobile phones.

Anna Naupa, ‘A tale of two sectors: Women leaders bridging the formal and informal sectors during Vanuatu’s COVID crisis’, Griffith University, 28 July 2020.

In Vanuatu, the economic impacts of the pandemic, closure of borders, and Tropical Cyclone Harold have created deep challenges for the national sustainable development plan: Vanuatu 2030. Naupa details how local female leaders are critical in effectively bringing the informal and formal sectors together: a catalyst for recovery, especially for the tourism sector. The group is lobbying the Government to ensure that the informal sector can access grants and employment protection, which informal vendors currently cannot. The crisis has highlighted – but also offered an opportunity – for visionary leadership to revive the informal tourism sector now and position it appropriately for the future.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Female leaders in Vanuatu are collaborating and lobbying to reposition the informal sector for future economic recovery.

Jeffrey D. Sachs and Moizza Binat Sarwar, ‘ODI: inclusive leadership responses for COVID-19’, ODI, 30 July 2020.

A conversation between Moizza Sarwar and Jeffrey Sachs on inclusive leadership. Sachs points out that more equal societies have responded in a more collective and trusting way and done better. Makes the case for leaders to rebuild the social contract that is more resilient to future shocks. Sarwar argues for new universal social protection systems and says they should be seen as an asset not as a cost to deal with this crisis and future ones.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Universal social protection schemes are the best way to deal with this crisis and future ones.

Anthony F. Pipa and Max Bouchet, ‘How to make the most of city diplomacy in the COVID-19 era’, Brookings, 6 August 2020.

Leadership at the metropolitan and mayoral level is offering a more coherent and timely response to the pandemic, argue Pip and Bouchet. They review the operations of global city-to-city networks and how one – C40 Cities – pivoted from developing a strategy against the climate emergency to fighting COVID-19. They detail how these networks provide city leaders with economic and material benefits, sharing of experience and expertise, and advocacy and influence. But also flag up the challenges facing the future of global city networks and what needs to be done by providing clear value, avoiding duplication and increasing diversity. The ultimate aim, they argue, is to facilitate the successful scaling of practical solutions.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: City to city cooperation and leadership is enabling more coherent and timely responses to the pandemic.

Jaime Faustino, John Rider, and Tracie Yang, ‘Thinking and Working Politically, a Conversation with Jaime Faustino’, The Asia Foundation, 22 July 2020.

Coalitions for Change based in The Philippines works with leaders inside and outside government, focusing on introducing specific policy reforms. This podcast emphasises the importance of Thinking and Working Politically. Jaime Faustino details the use of the five principles of entrepreneurial logic, start with what you have, make small bets (learn by doing), expect and exploit surprises, use networks and coalitions, and remember the future is undefined. He also implores donors to support leaders while letting them have their autonomy. The discussion is based on Jaime’s and John Sidel’s new book, Thinking and Working Politically in Development: Coalitions for Change in the Philippines.

#LeadershipObvs in a nutshell: Challenge: Leaders want to make their society better, while retaining their autonomy – development agencies must try not to curtail this autonomy.

As we continue to share resources most useful for understanding leadership during the pandemic, we are realigning our focus to match the changing information landscape and therefore adjusting the frequency of the #LeadershipObvs to monthly. Following our first ten #LeadershipObvervatories, we will now include other local stories of leadership which are separate to COVID-19 to understand how leadership is affected more broadly, providing a balance of information during this time.

For other resources on leadership, visit our publications page or join the conversation on Twitter @DLProg #LeadershipObvs

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