The Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic is putting pressure on businesses and State affairs like nothing experienced in modern times.
In this challenging time, countries that will win the Covid-19 fight are those with strong and decisive leaders—those that lead from the front and are able to rally the whole nation behind them to fight the pandemic without looking at one’s political colours. This also applies to business organisations.
Such leaders provide a figurehead for the organisation—inspiring employees to focus and succeed despite the obstacles. They cut through the inertia that uncertainty can bring and chart a course for the future.
What happened on April 2 2020 was the most unfortunate example of what happens where there is no leadership and lack of coordination within the government and only proved what others have been saying all along that Malawi is ill-prepared for the fight against the coronavirus (Covid-19).
There was total lack of proper crisis communication strategy. The President’s address in the evening of that Thursday when he announced the three confirmed cases of Covid-19 looked like a forced one and one done under duress.
In time of crisis such as now, effective communication can never be over emphasised. In the countries where they have managed to contain the pandemic, one clearly sees what leadership can do.
Take, for instance, in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize are the face of the Covid-19. They provide updates, answer questions and are readily available to their people.
Strong leadership is critical to allay the citizens’ concerns and insecurities while providing clear direction. Leaders should be widely visible and must be accessible—not just to their political party cronies but to every individual. Being unseen causes people to worry and panic about what is not being said or what may be happening in the background.
In times of crisis there is no substitute for leadership visibility in minimising negative speculation and fostering positive attitudes. If you can’t be there in person, it is possible to be everywhere digitally.
Apart from being visible, there is need to create regular communication cadence. Provide regular messages to Malawians. Messages that are reassuring and convincing that the President and, indeed, government is mindful and concerned with the welfare of all Malawians.
Clarity in messaging is very important. Be clear on what you saying and leave no room for vagueness as that will only lead to more negative speculation and fears.
Covid-19 has caused extensive and fast-moving change in every aspect of people’s lives and so, too, government. Situations are fluid, and what was permissible or advisable a week ago likely isn’t today.
Take for instance, just closing schools and banning gatherings was probably permissible a few weeks ago but this week government might need more drastic measures to contain the spread. Nobody understands why government still left the borders wide open. Our borders should have been closed and only allow vehicles and movement of essential goods and services.
This is the time to put MBC to its proper use. Not just using it as a mouth-piece of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Lastly, Mr. President, be the champion for the fight against Covid-19. If you do not demonstrate and embody the values you want every Malawian to adopt and display—calmness, resilience, persistence and kindness, no one will be motivated to play their part.
In times of crisis, the best leaders leads from the front, not hiding at the State House.