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6 Leadership Qualities Displayed by Women World Leaders During COVID-19

6 Min Read
Business

In recent weeks we have been seeing a string of articles praising the exemplary ways that women political leaders of various nations throughout the world have been handling the COVID-19 crisis. Some of these articles suggest, overtly or tacitly, that women are simply better leaders, period. It may actually be that countries with female leaders are more likely to have progressive societies with a relatively higher level of trust in the government, and people are therefore more likely to cooperate with their leaders. Or it might be that due to social, historical, and cultural factors, women leaders, be they in politics or business, could not have gotten to where they are without certain leadership qualities that are now serving them well during crisis.

Regardless of the possible reasons, rather than get mired in a debate over whether women are intrinsically better leaders or not, it may be more productive to look at the qualities these female leaders in government are displaying and consider which are essential for crisis leadership.

We can then see how those same qualities can help leaders in business, male and female alike, to also lead effectively in crisis. Even though government and business goals may obviously differ, some principles are universal.

Deliberateness

Speaking at the United State of Women conference in 2018, Michelle Obama expressed frustration over watching male leaders repeatedly "blow it" and get second chances while women, in general, do not. Because of this, women leaders by necessity must be thoughtful and deliberate in their leadership. Since they can't afford to blow it, they need to begin pondering early on about what leadership qualities they wish to internalize and display, especially because they know they're being assessed every step of the way.

As I've been observing the actions of female political leaders during this crisis, what strikes me is that they all seem to be thoughtful, intentional, and deliberate about how they lead. The fact that Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg even considered, and has actually been holding, special news conferences just for children is a mark of this kind of thoughtful deliberateness. This same kind of thoughtful deliberateness can also help business leaders lead their companies through crises effectively. You might say that it is the foundation for all the other leadership qualities listed here.

As I've been observing the actions of female political leaders during this crisis, what strikes me is that they all seem to be thoughtful, intentional, and deliberate about how they lead.

Humility

Germany's Angela Merkel may be a scientist but most political leaders don't necessarily come from scientific backgrounds. In order to come up with effective crisis response strategies leaders must be willing to surround themselves with those who know more about various subject areas and to listen to them. This requires humility, a common trait shared by many of the women political leaders being celebrated now. Part of what made General Motors CEO Mary Barra's response to a crisis involving faulty ignition switches such a case study in good crisis management was the humility she showed during it.

Inclusiveness

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is a leader who employs an inclusive leadership style, and this brings us to a component that goes hand-in-hand with humility: inclusiveness. Not only must leaders be willing to humble themselves and listen, they should be willing to include a diversity of voices in the dialogue. In times of stress, particularly, people often resort to habitual, biased modes of decision-making. But solving complex problems requires considering different points of view so that leaders can make decisions that have positive impacts on the collective whole, not just a segment of the whole. Business leaders who are inclusive of diverse viewpoints will not only increase the likelihood that their companies will survive during this period but to potentially even thrive.

Decisiveness

Being willing to listen, and listening to diverse voices, are all important but there comes a time when leaders must consider everything they've been advised and then take decisive action. They can't always afford the luxury of waiting for perfect information or to be 100% confident about their choices. We have seen how grave the consequences can be when world leaders respond haltingly to the pandemic as in the case of the U.S. and the U.K., somewhat ironically given the pervasive stereotype that men are more decisive than women. Contrast this to Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen who, once informed, took action early and decisively to contain the virus. During crises, businesses also need leaders who can tread the often thin line between acting too soon and waiting too long. To again cite GM's Mary Barra, the CEO'S decisive actions during the company's 2014 crisis is widely agreed to have saved the company from almost certain catastrophe.

Communicativeness

Although the leaders of the aforementioned nations took early, decisive action, they also took care to clearly and effectively communicate to people what they were doing and why. Chancellor Angela Merkel's scientific yet concise explanation of how coronavirus transmission works helped Germans understand why it was so critical to contain the virus as early as possible. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ardern has remarkably exhibited all the traits of good communication during a crisis by addressing her people clearly, consistently, and compassionately. In business, this can result in the "female leadership trust advantage" in which women leaders are able to win more trust in some crisis situations due to their interpersonal skills.

Empathy

Even before COVID-19, in the wake of a horrific act of terrorism in her country, Prime Minister Ardern exhibited one of the most important traits that any leader can have during a crisis: empathy. Her "be kind" refrain during the pandemic fueled a spirit of altruism in New Zealand, inspiring many acts of charity. In business as well, studies show that in crisis situations empathetic and compassionate leaders perform better and inspire more loyalty, engagement, and productivity.

To be clear, it is not that leaders who are women have universally performed well during the COVID-19 pandemic, nor have leaders who are men universally done poorly. Far from it. Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's bold crisis management has helped his nation endure despite early accusations that his lockdowns were an overreaction. In business, Marriott's Arne Sorenson has been a portrait of stellar crisis leadership, displaying many of the traits that have been discussed here. But due to a complex array of factors—perhaps some of them innate to their gender but many of them due to social and cultural causes—it has been hard to ignore the fact that many female world leaders have indeed been rising to the occasion in ways that some of the most prominent male leaders have not. By studying what they have been doing right, men and women business leaders alike can also lead their companies through these dark times towards a more hopeful future.

Nicole Smith, assistant professor in the online MBA program at Ohio University.

This article was originally published

Creative DIY Tips for Making Your Own Calendar

The current state of the world definitely affected us in many ways, it made us stay locked up in our homes away from all the social events and seemingly fun stuff. But the responsibilities didn't just vanish into thin air, they are still there, waiting to be organized and prepared. Times are super hectic and you are probably not in the mood to think about the foreseeable future, but there are ways to turn in into a fun time. Starting a journal or making a simple calendar can bring you peace, use that creative time to yourself and relax while doing it. Grab your colored pencils, stickers, scraps, and everything in between, your inner DIY queen is about to jump out!

Fill in the blank

So probably the easiest way to start when it comes to making your own calendar is by simply printing a blank template found online. This way you'll have a base, a blank canvas if you will. Take all the materials that you have in your house, like washi tapes, sticky notes, glittery colorful pens and anything you can think of that could work as a decoration on your calendar. And go at it! There are no rules when it comes to decorating, it's super personal and it can differ from person to person.

The only real advice you'll need is to leave some space while decorating, don't overdo it since it will clutter and distract you from the written parts. Finding the perfect template that will suit your aesthetic is extremely easy and fast, a simple google search could get you whatever you want and the best part is, it's free! There are many printable options out there, so don't worry about not finding something you'd like, the possibilities are endless and you'll find just the right calendar you imagined!

Start from scratch

If you don't have a printer at home or you're just determined to make the calendar yourself, there are awesome ways to make the best and most unique personalized calendar there is. This gives you the full freedom to do whatever you can think of, want to make a calendar from old newspapers, do it! Want to cut out a certain shape and disguise the calendar as an art piece in your kitchen, why not?

Nothing is stopping you when it comes to unleashing your creative side, use everything that you can get your hands on, think outside the box, don't be afraid to experiment. Making a calendar from scratch is an amazing opportunity to explore your artistic side, especially if you've been busy with work and responsibilities. This is a great excuse to do something creative, at the end of the day you are making it for the purpose of being more organized and having everything mapped out and planned. So make this time, the best time possible, be free and create!

Mix and match

Since there are absolutely no rules when making any diy project at home, what's stopping you from making the ultimate, super personal calendar! If you have basic knowledge in photoshop, you can even modify the blank calendars you got online, add pictures of your loved ones and family, maybe your pets or anything you like, and then print it out. Or you can print the blank template right away and add pictures or polaroids later on by using some washi tape.

Also, you can even paint over the printed blank calendar, this is a good option for those who aren't as skilled, so you'll have a base to start, just dip in your paintbrush in some acrylic or watercolor paints (or whatever you have around the house) and go for it. This is a great way to start doing artsy projects while still having some form of direction and help.

Have fun

Sure keeping your priorities at bay and making plans and notes for everything is important...but the heart of this project has to be your willingness to turn something as boring and blank as a calendar into something spectacular. This calendar should proudly be up on your kitchen wall, so loud and colorful it just draws your attention to it.

If the calendar is decorated, personalized, and fun to look at, maybe it will inspire you to look forward to some events or responsibilities even if you didn't feel like it in the first place. So be creative and free, there are no rules so just go at it. With everything that happened this year, try to be positive and find little joys in seemingly insignificant things like diy calendars!