Leadership for the Greater Good: Reflections on the 2020 Pandemic

We are living in an unprecedented time. While none of us have experienced the specific details of the challenges before us, we are not without resources to help see us through. ILA has invited well-known and respected thought leaders from around the world to share their leadership knowledge, wisdom, and viewpoint to inform and inspire us as we continue our collective work.

We'll be posting 2-3 reflections per week so bookmark this page!

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This site is supported via a grant from the MetLife Foundation.


Ronald E. Riggio

Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Change Us Forever?

9 July 2020
Ronald E. Riggio , Professor, Leadership and Organizational Psychology, Claremont McKenna College, USA

We long to return to our old lives. But, at the end of this crisis, it would be a shame to simply go back to normal. If leaders do not learn from the global pandemic, they are likely to be unprepared when new problems arise. Here are five critical lessons that we and our leaders need to learn from this crisis.

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Suze Wilson

A Model for Pandemic Leadership: Lesson's Drawn from New Zealand's Response to COVID-19

30 June 2020
Suze Wilson, Senior Lecturer and Leadership Scholar, Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand

What are the lessons we can learn from New Zealand's remarkable success in responding to COVID-19? This cogent analysis points to their clarity of purpose in minimizing harm to lives and livelihoods and three key leadership practices – being led by expertise, mobilizing collective effort, and enabling coping.

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Dennis Tourish

The Coronavirus Crisis and Leadership in Business

26 June 2020
Dennis Tourish, Professor, Leadership and Organization Studies, University of Sussex, Business School, UK

Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman asserted that the social responsibility of business was only to increase its profits, within the law. This mantra, with its focus on the short term, gained a strong hold on much of business practice and continues to guide leadership decision-making in response to COVID-19.

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Bobby Austin

An Ontology for Public Kinship as a Leadership Platform

24 June 2020
Bobby Austin, President, Neighborhood Associates Corporation, USA

As we think how to open the country, we ask: How will we know what is safe? How will we structure the workplace? How will we educate our children? We need to give as much thought to what we will reimagine, or even just imagine, as the common good in American life and our relationships – one human to another.

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Erwin Schwella

The Global Pandemic: A Trigger for Deeply Systemic Disruptive Social Innovation? Or an Inevitable Global Apocalypse?

19 June 2020
Erwin Schwella, Dean, School of Social Innovation, Hugenote Kollege, South Africa

Our political, social, and economic ideologies and institutions are not adequately dealing with global wicked problems. Leadership must start and sustain courageous leadership conversations, or we will not make progress towards solving these growing problems and the probabilities for an apocalyptic end increase.

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Richard Bolden

The Fall of Edward Colston and the Rise of Inclusive Place-Based Leadership

17 June 2020
Richard Bolden, Professor, Leadership and Management, University of the West of England, UK

The killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, USA triggered a wave of protests about racial inequality across the world. In Bristol, UK, it led to the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader. The response to these and other events show us that we have much to learn about the nature and purpose of good leadership in contemporary society.

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Johan Roos

Intellectuals of the World, Please Unite

12 June 2020
Johan Roos, Chief Academic Officer, HULT International Business School, UK

Ill-informed decisions wreak havoc to our economies and societies. Intellectuals in academia have a duty to engage in the public debate, to describe how they see the problems, create new ways of dealing with them, and challenge what we take for granted. It is time to stretch what is impossible and unthinkable!

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Katherine Tyler Scott

The Fire Next Time

8 June 2020
Katherine Tyler Scott, Managing Partner, Ki ThoughtBridge, USA

We are fighting the fires caused by an eruption of the collective shadow, of what has been repeatedly suppressed and ignored for decades; some would say centuries. The flames will once again be quelled and when they are, we must not breathe a sigh of relief. It will just be the beginning of the real work.

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Ira Chaleff

Racism and The Bystander

4 June 2020
Ira Chaleff, Visiting Leadership Scholar, Møller Institute, Churchill College, Cambridge University, UK

Officers Thao, Keung, and Lane stood by passively while George Floyd desperately pleaded to breathe and live. These bystanders should have had the psychological capacity to intervene and save his life. Why didn't they act? The focus of our national conversation must be on them – for they are us.

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Jonathan Gosling

Leadership in a COVID Context: Denial, Salvation, and Adaptation

2 June 2020
Jonathan Gosling, Lead Faculty, The Forward Institute, UK

We often hear that we are living in an unprecedented time. But there is nothing unprecedented about the sudden onset of life-threatening, systems-shaking shocks. Leadership of denial or salvation are common responses, but with care and thoughtfulness, a third kind of leadership may emerge: leadership of adaptation.

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Rens van Loon Angel Buster

Dialogue at the Edge of Crisis

28 May 2020
Rens van Loon, Professor, Dialogical Leadership at the School of Humanities and Digital Sciences Tilburg University, Netherlands
Angel Buster, PhD Candidate at Tilburg University, Netherlands

Words matter. They can create a worldview, manipulate thoughts and actions of people in a certain direction, and are often emotionally destabilizing. How do we cultivate the capacity to choose the right thing, the morally good thing, despite external pressure towards the opposite, especially in extreme circumstances?

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Carol S. Pearson

The Power of Story in a Time of Crisis and Potential Social Renewal

26 May 2020
Carol S. Pearson, Leadership Educator and Author, USA

We are experiencing an economic and health crisis. There is no savior who will rescue us from these crises or from ourselves. Achieving a positive outcome is up to all of us. We all need to be leaders and face tough realities without getting dragged down by the kind of fear that brings out our lesser angels.

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Erwin Schwella

Leadership in Crisis: Views from a Southern Sh#thouse Country

22 May 2020
Erwin Schwella, Dean, School of Social Innovation, Hugenote Kollege, South Africa

Discussions of leadership for the new normal often implicitly assume that we all share the same old normal. Yet poverty, inequality, and unemployment greatly impact our starting point. As COVID-19 increases these issues worldwide, what strategy will enable us to transition to a transformed "abnormal new normal?"

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Éliane Ubalijoro Christian Novak

Reimaging Leadership Post COVID-19: Dreaming Health, Social, and Planetary Equity into Being

20 May 2020
Éliane Ubalijoro, Deputy Executive Director, Global Open Data for Agriculture & Nutrition (GODAN); Member, Presidential Advisory Council for Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Canada
Christian Novak, Professor of Practice, McGill University - Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID); Managing Partner, FMA - Frontier Markets Advisors, Canada

To navigate the pandemic, we need leadership that supports science-based decision making and leverages the best in all of us. We need to find a way to solve the practical challenges we face today while imagining a tomorrow that is not dualistic but embraces ecology, health, and economy in a oneness we cannot yet imagine.

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Chellie Spiller

Wayfinder Wisdom

18 May 2020
Chellie Spiller, Professor, Waikato University, New Zealand

Chellie Spiller's thoughtful postcards draw upon the ancient wisdom of waka navigators or wayfinders for the skills and behaviors needed in modern leaders. Central to the wayfinding approach is seeing what is really going on - discerning the detail and seeing the whole.

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Keith Grint

The World Turned Upside Down

15 May 2020
Keith Grint, Emeritus Professor, Warwick University, UK

The coronavirus has revealed that some of our contemporary myths are suspect – particularly the UK and US's claim of exceptionalism. The role of leadership is not to pretend that the unique values of a country will save them, but to support those that need help, and suppress those that remain irresponsible, for whatever reasons.

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Ahmed Abdel-Meguid

5 Ways the COVID-19 Pandemic is a Game Changer for the Business Education Ecosystem

11 May 2020
Ahmed Abdel-Meguid, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies and Administration, Associate Professor, School of Business, American University in Cairo, Egypt

In light of COVID-19, how do institutions stay prepared and remain relevant? B-Schools, and other educational institutions, need to have candid conversations about how they respond to changes in pedagogical training, student's perceptions of learning, and how they make preparedness a cornerstone of their program.

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Mark Nepo

The Anthem of Our Day

8 May 2020
Mark Nepo, Poet, Teacher, and Author, USA

As we practice caution and social distancing, let us not distance each other in our hearts. As we are forced to slow down and stop our busyness, let us feed more than our fear. Let us strengthen our inner resolve, both physically and spiritually, so we can meet the necessities of the day in hopes of making things more beautiful.

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Judy Sorum Brown

Slow Motion

6 May 2020
Judy Sorum Brown, Leadership Educator and Poet, USA

The word "unprecedented" is often used to describe COVID-19 and all the ways it is impacting our lives and our world. But we have had experiences that can help us to weather this time. How can leaders draw upon these past experiences to be, as Vaclav Havel described, a non-anxious presence in the world?

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Paul Hart

Facing the Conundrums of the Corona Crisis: Challenges to Political Leadership

4 May 2020
Paul 't Hart, Professor, Public Administration, Utrecht University, Netherlands

While the acute stages of the coronoa crisis have been difficult, the strategic challenges of the crisis are only just beginning. Paul 't Hart outlines the issues that will test the mettle of leaders and institutions worldwide. How they tackle these issues will define their legacies and shape their country's future.

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Richard Bolden

Leadership, Complexity and Change: Learning From the COVID-19 Pandemic

1 May 2020
Richard Bolden, Professor, Leadership and Management, University of the West of England, UK

The rise of populism in the last few years has led to a "them vs us" worldview. COVID-19 seems to have reset the dial on this – fostering calls of compassion, solidarity, and collective action. What are the lessons we can take from this and how will we use them to create a stronger, healthier, safer world?

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Douglas Lindsay James Dobbs

The Power of Conversations and Physical (Not Social) Distancing

29 April 2020
Douglas Lindsay, Executive Editor, Journal of Character and Leadership Development, United States Air Force Academy, USA
James "Jimmy" Dobbs, Dean, United States Air Force Academy Preparatory School, USA

These days, we are relying on Zoom and other apps to meet and carry on with our work. Sometimes it may seem like we are talking even more than usual! But we are missing the impromptu conversations that are an important part of our workday. As leaders, how can we foster these kinds of conversations and stay connected?

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Chellie Spiller

On Being Grounded in Aotearoa New Zealand

27 April 2020
Chellie Spiller, Professor, Waikato University, New Zealand

Jacinda Ardern has received great praise as Prime Minister of New Zealand. She exemplifies the Māori concept of a rangatira leader, one who weaves people together. The rangatira approach empowers others to act, at all levels of society, understanding leadership is both an individual and collective endeavor.

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Sen Sendjaya

Leading with Shared Vulnerability

23 April 2020
Sen Sendjaya, Professor of Leadership, Swinburne Business School, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia

While we have taken pride in what we could accomplish in our interconnected world, COVID-19 reveals how our interdependence exposes us to greater risk, making us more vulnerable. It shows how our strength can also be a source of weakness. Is it possible to find strength and possibilities in our shared vulnerability?

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Bobby Austin

A Global Crisis and the Recalibration of Humanity

22 April 2020
Corey Seemiller, Faculty Member, Leadership Studies in Education and Organizations, Wright State University, USA

The coronavirus has led to a recalibration of the human spirit and a rise in humanity's leadership. It's the kind of "connected leadership" the youth of this country, and the world, have been calling for. We must ask ourselves: Why haven't we been doing this all along? And, how we will make it last?

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Bobby Austin

A Time for Public Kinship Amid a Mandate of Social Distance

21 April 2020
Bobby Austin, President, Neighborhood Associates Corporation, USA

At this time of social distancing, Bobby Austin calls for us to embrace "Public Kinship" to help tend to the fracturing and crumbling of our social infrastructure. Public Kinship is based on personal self-leadership – what we do for ourselves, for each other, and for the common good.

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Brent Ruben

The COVID-19 Crisis: A Time to Reset Leadership Values and Practices

20 April 2020
Brent Ruben, Distinguished Professor of Communication, Senior University Fellow, Founder of the Center for Organizational Leadership, Rutgers University, USA

Authoritarian-style leadership practices have become more common, to the point that they are often dismissed as "that's just the way it is." COVID-19 reveals our need for leaders who speak with authenticity and accuracy and puts in stark relief the shortcomings of authoritarian leaders – and the choices ahead of us.

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Katherine Tyler Scott

Character Matters

17 April 2020
Katherine Tyler Scott, Managing Partner, Ki ThoughtBridge, USA

Katherine Tyler Scott, former board chair of the ILA, speaks to the importance of character in leadership, and the damage that occurs when it is lacking. "Questioning and pondering the meaning and relevance of character in leadership is not only an academic exercise, it is a moral imperative, and as we can see daily, it is a matter of life and death."

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Manfred Kets de Vries

Do We Get the Leaders We Deserve?

15 April 2020
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, Distinguished Clinical Professor, Leadership Development and Organisational Change, INSEAD, France

These times require a collaborative global approach, based on mutuality and trust. Yet trust is in short supply. This is due, in part, to the rise of authoritarian leaders – malignant narcissists – who pursue their self-interests without any moral restrictions. These leaders are dangerous, not just for their countries, but for the entire world.

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Amanda Ellis

Building Bridges: Communication, Compassion, and Cooperation in a Time of COVID-19

13 April 2020
Amanda Ellis, ASU Global Futures & Professor of Practice, Thunderbird School of Global Management, USA

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, is the epitome of compassionate and effective leadership, as evident by her exceptional handling of crises. Ardern's leadership stands as a new paradigm in direct contrast to the worrying rise in authoritarian leadership styles that so many male leaders exemplify today.

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Aldo Boitano

The Entire Planet Must Reformulate Its Way of Operating

8 April 2020
Aldo Boitano, Founder/Executive Director, Executive Development, Chile

Aldo Boitano writes that the coronavirus pandemic has revealed how deeply connected we are and how our actions directly affect others. In making future decisions, he urges us to understand that not only is a shared future better than a lonely one; there is no future if it is not shared.

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Kathleen E. Allen

Viewing Leadership Through a Systems Lens (in a Time of Pandemic)

6 April 2020
Kathleen E. Allen, President, Allen and Associates, USA

Kathleen E. Allen looks at how a whole systems approach to leadership enables both/and thinking, a more effective use of data, and rewards cooperation across the system. "When leaders use these three lenses, not only are the outcomes better for their country, they are better for the whole system long term."

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Mike Hardy

Leading and Learning from the Pandemic

2 April 2020
Mike Hardy, Executive Director and Professor of Intercultural Relations, Coventry University, UK

Mike Hardy, chair of the ILA, writes that COVID-19 has taught us that epidemics will happen but we won't know when. What does that mean for leadership? Hardy argues that we need to focus on preparing, not planning. "We cannot expect there to be clear maps showing stress-free routes to our future. We need to remain agile, take risks, and commit to learning."

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Keith Grint

Leadership in Times of Crisis

30 March 2020
Keith Grint, Emeritus Professor, Warwick University, UK

Keith Grint draws on Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People to reflect on the challenge and necessity of leaders to "tell us the truth, even if it is unbearable, and to tell us our responsibilities, even if we would prefer to shirk them. This is the Leadership role."

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