The year 2020 has brought multiple changes in government administrations and corporate enterprises. One that may not be so evident has arisen in terms of leadership.
The main focus of this article is to explore the contributions and impact of female leadership in the handling of the Covid-19 crisis in nations and companies led by this stratum.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the ability of female leadership to effectively respond to the enormous and complex challenges a situation of this magnitude brings. During times of uncertainty and angst, the world needs strong leaders. Humanity keeps facing one of the most acute crises in the last years. The lack of trust in media, public institutions, companies, and government leaders has been a determining factor in finding solutions to the impact on society.
Most countries with a strong, timely, different, and positive response in the handling of the COVID-19 crisis and its consequences, are led by women. A study carried out in Great Britain, with data from 194 countries, revealed the mortality and infection rates registered in the first three months of the pandemic were much lower in countries led by the female gender. It is worth mentioning that only 7% of the world’s leaders are women. (The same figure of women who lead Fortune 500 companies).
Female leadership is the perfect example of how results can be obtained by emotionally connecting with people, showing empathy and humility, and how responsibility in following regulations and guidelines, leads to confidence and quickness in decision making.
Business leaders of the future must be an inspiration, they must be wary, cautious, and adopt a new radical playbook, that motivates and boosts companies and their members to be more innovative and resilient to volatile situations. Resilience is not a luxury, nor is it unreachable. It is the fundamental base to lead on through changes and difficult transitions.
Humility is one of the most important traits when defining the characteristics of good leadership. For example, although young adults and children are not part of the voting stratus, Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway, took the time to speak to them directly and leave politics aside. It resulted in a smart strategy because one day that sector of society will become a new generation of voters. Women tend to be more motivated by the love and care of their people.
We can’t stop the coronavirus pandemic or any other crisis that arises in the future without trust nor global solidarity. Every crisis is an opportunity. Especially in politics, those who share their personal experience and emotionally connect with audiences can win a great deal more than those who do not. In the first weeks of the virus, the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern made a Facebook Live Event to inform citizens and answer their questions. During the live transmission, Ardern could be seen with an honest communication approach regarding her family situation and reality. She showed herself as an authentic leader, eliminating personal and professional barriers.
Another example of positive female leadership is Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. Her main focus in communication has always been to maintain strictly faithful to facts, data, and information of trustworthy medical advisors; leading the country Ito reduce the mortality rate due to the virus by an important figure. Honesty and transparency have always been and keep being her main pillars.
Tacking efficient and quick actions is a quality not every leader possesses, especially during stress and uncertainty periods. Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, is probably one of the best-prepared leaders to address a crisis of this magnitude. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan was affected by the SARS outbreak, in which a contention plan was designed, very similar to the one applied to control the COVID-19 outbreak (tracking, quarantine, and mask use). Likewise, Taiwan already had part of the hospital and medical infrastructure necessary to face this kind of crisis. That is why Taiwan is one of the countries with the lowest coronavirus mortality rate in the world, despite its proximity to the Wuhan district in China (the location where the virus originated).
Female leadership is usually different in style and tone when compared to male leadership. In various surveys from Harvard Business Review, women were better qualified in 13 of 19 leadership abilities. The best-qualified aptitudes were: communication, collaboration, and engagement. Female leaders are generally more conscious of their fears, well-being, and trust their plans. Those who promote and show honesty and integrity as main values, who express empathy and understand the stress, anxiety and frustration people usually feel in complex times obtain better results. Women leaders have been characterized for leaving aside competition and pride in times of crisis and creating innovative solutions to help address complex challenges. There can be multiple ways to produce good results with an infinity of strategies, but with consistent communication and planning as the heart of every strategy, good results are sure to come. In this type of crisis, more than one leader or spokesperson can arise, and if they do not follow the same path; confusion can be expected.
Isabella Miralles is a social communicator from Universidad Catolica Andres Bello (Caracas, Venezuela), as well as an advisor of strategic and corporate communications. You can find her on Twitter at @isaMiralles and on Medium at isaMiralles.