COVID AND LEADERSHIP : THE TESTAMENT DURING PANDEMIC
- Posted by: Azalina
- Category: MBA@KPJ
Flipping the pages of my daily newspaper, my eyes automatically flit to the reported figures of total COVID-19 cases. It’s probably the only piece of info that matters to me and fellow healthcare providers now. As time passes, however, I started to realise that our Director-General (DG) of Health, Dato’ Seri Dr Noor Hisham, hasn’t appeared much in the news lately compared to when the first reported cases of Covid-19 cropped up. Some may think that the DG is shirking his responsibilities or has gotten tired or lazy, yet I highly doubt that’s the case. Our DG is, after all, a doctor who has sworn to the moral duty of saving those that can be saved, curing those that can be cured. I believe at this moment he is toiling behind the scenes to battle the pandemic.
While the people of Malaysia have differing opinions on Dato’ Noor Hisham’s actions and decisions in dealing with Covid-19, I certainly believe that the man has done his best in managing the situation and has effectively steered the country in the right path to combating the highly infectious disease (for a quite while at least, considering the sudden spike in cases this past month). I contribute his (partial) success largely to effective leadership.
What constitutes good leadership in a time of crisis? This is a question I often ponder upon these days. What can we learn from Dato’ Seri Dr Noor Hisham and his actions thus far in dealing with the pandemic? From my observations, I have identified three qualities that shape his role as an effective leader: (1) confidence, (2) clear and concise communication and (3) his strong belief and support for the nation’s healthcare providers. Whenever there is a crisis, there is a panic, and with panic comes the danger of societal-wide disruption. In these situations, it is imperative that the government displays a united front and strong leadership, which is exactly what Malaysia did. Our government quickly and efficiently took charge of the situation and set up measures to combat the spread of the disease. While the quality of our medical supplies and instruments (not to mention the lack of medical personnel) begs for improvement, the efforts and dedication of our frontliners and healthcare personnel in this pandemic are highly commendable and have been integral in reducing the spread of Covid-19. Such results were only made possible through the coordination efforts by the government (i.e. our Director-General).
Many still worry though. Has our DG been given enough power and support to carry out measures best in containing the pandemic? It’s certainly worrying if we were to think of what our leaders will do in a pandemic like this. There will definitely be those who worry about the economic impact of yet another lockdown; they may decide that the economic benefits trump whatever social benefits coming from social distancing or curfews. As a healthcare professional myself, I would most definitely be inclined to disagree, however in politics, nothing is certain. There is no absolute right or wrong in politics, and it is politics of course, that drives the actions of governments. Some leaders make unpopular decisions (not enforcing social distancing or mandatory masks) thinking that is better for the citizens (or better for their next election campaign); some make popular decisions but still end up being blamed by the people when things go wrong. Whether right or wrong, leaders should always be confident in their decisions (or at least appear to be confident) as it is confidence and assertiveness that calms the nervous masses in times of crisis.
Now that we’ve emphasized the importance of leadership, we would expect every leader to behave like so. However, asserting leadership isn’t exactly as simple as it seems. When leaders are not supported for the decisions they are making, their decisions may not produce the effects they expect, causing leaders to second-guess themselves and lose confidence which in turn affects their leadership, thus creating a vicious cycle of ineffectiveness. Just like how we rely on leadership to guide us, leaders also rely on the support of their constituents in order to achieve results.
Unusual times – pandemic times, call for unusual measures and provide unusual opportunities. This is the time to step up, step forward and be counted for doing something meaningful, something out of ordinary, something generous, something humane, or to support others who are taking the first steps towards tomorrow. A leader’s response to a crisis is much more than just making speeches.
It feels like a lot, because it is.
Azalina A. Rahman
Deputy Chief Nursing Officer
KPJ Johor Specialist Hospital