written by Matt Andrews
The Public Leadership Through Crisis blog series offers ideas for leaders questioning how they can help and what kind of leadership is required in the face of a crisis (like the COVID-19 pandemic).
As we ponder how you as a leader should consider organizing your organization(s) to respond to the crisis, let’s listen to some advice from someone who has led through various crises. Below is a podcast interview with Shruti Mehrotra, who has advised various Heads of State on effective government and statebuilding and currently helps oversee George Soros’ Economic Development Fund and Economic Advancement Program. She has worked in a variety of leadership roles on crises in contexts like Sudan and Liberia and beyond.
Here are some points from the interview that relate to organizing yourself and your organization/team to lead through crisis.
1. Three lessons for leaders
Shruti notes that leading in these situations requires that you:
- recognize there are no obvious, clear or easy decisions (or perfect decisions); what you need to do is get the best information you can to make decisions (even though you know the information is imperfect),
- need to have a process in place to discipline how you engage the information (access it, interpret it, debate it, etc.) and monitor the process (ideally from some kind of situation room), and
- need trusted people (advisors) around you—including people with expertise in the subject matter (the technical dimensions)—to help make the decisions.
As she says: “there will be debate, [but] as a decision maker and a decision making team, one has to go through that debate process and come up with a conclusion that is trusted and can be communicated to foster trust with the population about choices that were taken.”
An emergent idea, then: It is important to think about the information sources you have, the process you have for interrogating information, and the team you have doing this work (“your trusted people” and the “technical experts”).