Leading through a pandemic

When you accept the leadership position in any situation, let alone the responsibility for steering the course of an organisation and looking after it’s ‘crew’, you know there is going to be some level of the unexpected in the small print of the contract that you sign!

But I don’t think anyone would have anticipated that “and leading through any potential global pandemics” to be one of the clauses. But here we are, and have been for over 12 months. And if I asked you to tell me one good thing that has happened because of Covid-19, I wonder what you would say?

For me – it is has allowed an incredible amount of reflection!

This time has and will likely continue to change us forever. And in taking time to be introspective, these would be a few of my observations.

The flight attendant’s comment of “please see to your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others” has never been more true. Overnight, or it seems that way, the idea of self-care for leaders changed from being a “feel-good” idea to being a strategic part of our thinking and plans. It became a focal point in conversations. The team I lead already knows our organisations value of self-care and they are strongly encouraged and given time to pursue that. But, as a leader, we should also model. Looking exhausted and panic stricken helps no-one!

Leaders need to appear calm and confident. Not still water calm where there is no movement at all but that sense of calm that steadies the ship… but also communicate, communicate, communicate. The effectiveness of this one word has a direct impact on the level of collaboration you will receive from your team. Feeling that you can contribute goes a long way in helping to overcome some uncertainty in a crisis. One thing was for sure, I was not going to have ALL of the answers.

But these values have to be fuelled by compassion. Everyone can quickly tell if someone is doing something because they care for you or because they want something from you.

We are trying to lead by example because, the truth is, we are not just being viewed by our colleagues, but also by our communities. We want to model behaviours that can inspire, help bring a level of stability, but also hope!

In reflecting back, I have come to realise that many of these lessons are things that should have been part of our working environments anyway. So, in moving forward into the new world, what will I do as a leader?

I will continue to:

Listen – I am so grateful for the honest feedback I have received from my team during the past months. It has given me countless opportunities to enhance the work we do for children and young people but also for the people who deliver it. And all I had to do was…..listen.

Encourage creativity – The ways in which we have maintained our “core business” over the last twelve months has been outstanding and down to one thing; the incredible creativity of our team.

Keep the main thing the main thing – At the centre of Phase Trust is the heart to see children and young people be inspired, equipped and transformed in ALL areas of their lives; physically, emotionally and spiritually. I am so proud to say that, in spite of and because of Covid-19, our heartbeat remains strong!

Jayne Sargeant
CEO, Phase Trust