Extraordinary times call for extraordinary leadership. UNC-Gillings faculty and former NCIPH Director Edward L. Baker MD, MPH; Robert Irwin, MA; and NCIPH’s Gene Matthews, JD have decades of public health leadership experience. They share their wealth of knowledge in a new article published on the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice Direct website, “Thoughts on Adaptive Leadership During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” They suggest that public health leaders in local and state agencies could benefit by focusing on four elements of leadership practice:
- Situational awareness
- Decision making
They stress that leaders need not have the answers to everything in times of stress, but should be asking the right questions, and give guidance in each of these element arenas.
Baker, Irwin and Matthews speak to the unique nature of public health and the opportunity that crises afford leaders. As the three write in their conclusion:
The crucial work of public health is generally conducted in the shadows. The COVID-19 crisis thrusts that work and the public health leaders that guide it into the full light of day. Leaders face increased risks with heightened exposure. But with increased risk comes increased opportunity. By focusing attention on better situational awareness, wise decision making, improved communications and optimal energy management, public health leaders have the opportunity as rarely before to prevent disease and save lives.
Many of our nation’s political and scientific leaders have likened the coronavirus crisis to fighting a war. As Sir Winston Churchill said during a war more than 75 years ago, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”