3 minute read – Last updated: April 20, 2020

Examples of world-class leadership in a time of crisis

Ask the Expert with Robert St-Jacques — Episode 6

Our GM of Professional Services Robert St. Jacques has been answering the questions we continue to receive about HR and people management changes during the health crisis. 

Q: Based on current events around the world, (in your opinion) which leader has demonstrated world-class leadership during this time, and what did they do that was so outstanding? 

RSJ: That’s a fantastic question and one I just can’t wait to get into. It’s interesting — if you type “leadership during a crisis” into Google, we have 668 million results in point four seconds. So you can tell this is a hot topic.  But the question is, who has exhibited great leadership, right? Top of mind for me is Prime Minister Arden of New Zealand, Prime Minister Frederickson of Denmark, and President Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan. And closer to home here in Vancouver, Dr. Bonnie Henry. 

In terms of what made them successful, if you look at the decisions they have made throughout this crisis, and if you look at the outcomes related to those decisions, you see that the two work hand-in-hand. In other words, first of all, they acted with urgency. In New Zealand, Denmark, Taiwan, and also in the case of British Columbia, they shut things down very early. In all four of those instances, they had the courage, the political and/or scientific courage to go forward and clamp things down early. In the case of Taiwan, back in January, and even in December, they stopped flights to China. The first piece is acting with a sense of urgency. The second thing they do really well is to communicate with transparency and explain the ‘why.’ This is why we’re doing things. There were a lot of potential downsides to being in front of the herd so to speak and in front of the curve. They are also taking responsibility for problem-solving. It’s not just ‘Hey, we’re doing this because somebody else suggested it.’ They look at the situation they have and they don’t blame other people. They say, ‘I’m making the decision. We’re focused on the problem and we’re focused on, in this case, containment.’

The last piece is they engage in constant updating of their thought process. In Taiwan, they’ve slowly opened back up, schools are open again. In the case of Denmark, for example, they’re starting back with kindergarten and first graders again, because children are less likely to be affected by this. If you look at those four individuals, both in terms of the decisions they made and the positive outcomes, the one consistent trait is that they’re all women. Think about that for a second.


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