Whether you are a CEO, educator, service worker, or stay at home parent, you are a leader. Considering how to respond to the pandemic is critical for managing the multiple intertwining and unprecedented changes we are facing. Every facet of our lives has been disrupted and the world is grieving. As leaders, we must ask ourselves, what is the tone we want to send? What is the example we want to set?
As articles about how to lead during the pandemic flood our inboxes, we see key attributes highlighted over and over again: the ability to be compassionate, empathetic, collaborative, and transparent are key for success. Each of these components directly connects to the areas of emotional intelligence where women excel.
Considering the many responses to COVID-19, a pattern has emerged where nations with women leaders have had a much higher success rate at battling the pandemic. In fact, countries led by women have six-times fewer confirmed deaths than other nations.
Women are positioned to be far more successful when leading during a crisis in general, and in the midst of COVID-19, specifically.
From government to schools to health care facilities to our homes, as leaders we are walking a tightrope trying to calibrate between health, the economy, and our most basic need for human connection. With the world on its knees, women have stood out as demonstrating superb leadership in the midst of this global crisis because of their ability to exercise their emotional intelligence and have grounded responses in values, compassion, and strategy. Wittenberg-Cox explains that Angela Merkel, Tsai Ing-wen, Erna Solberg, Jacinda Ardern, Wanna Marin, Katrin Jakobsdottir, and Mette Frederiksen have demonstrated that there is an “alternative way to wielding power” and have taught us about truth and the power of compassion. According to Wittenbery-Cox,
Generally, the empathy and care which all of these female leaders have communicated seems to come from an alternate universe than the one we have gotten used to. It’s like their arms are coming out of their videos to hold you close in a heart-felt and loving embrace. Who knew leaders could sound like this? Now we do.
Basic leadership calls for emotional intelligence. Studies demonstrate that compassionate leaders have the highest levels of success and create atmospheres that foster loyalty and collaboration. While women and men are equally emotionally intelligent with similar competencies in flexibility, optimism, and self-actualization, women have higher levels of compassion, empathy, social responsibility, and interpersonal skills. Because of this, women are positioned to be far more successful when leading during a crisis in general, and in the midst of COVID-19, specifically.
Quick action that engages risk assessment and responds to the issues at hand is essential. However, even more critical is the way leaders respond to their own needs and the needs of those around them while remaining focused on the fundamental principle of doing good. In a crisis, it is necessary to respond in a way that reflects our character and commitment to our values.