There is more than enough in the media currently, about vaccines, their respective qualities, efficacy and delivery mechanisms to occupy many fine minds and learned libraries.

This comment focuses on a different aspect but is well illustrated by the successes and challenges of the Oxford Coronavirus vaccine.

Somewhat unhelpfully, a few comments in relation to the dosages, subsequent to the announcement of its success, have revealed themselves for what they are. Does knocking copy from competitor geographies really add to the sum of knowledge for mankind in addressing this global scourge?

Imagine the scene in a laboratory, office, factory or research centre or anywhere from within your supply chain where there is seeming bad news on its way or is announced. But in this case, imagine being told that the good news is better than expected but we are not sure why. How do you react when your supplier lets you down badly and yet it …. “may not be so bad after all”.

The leader’s role is to handle, shape and re frame problems and provide a path through the problem using the assets, human and otherwise, that they have to hand.

Consider the great medical breakthroughs that have occurred by happenstance. Jenner’s passing interest in the welfare of milkmaids and his gardener’s son, through to Fleming, undoubtedly being a tad frustrated at some mould growing in his petri dishes!

These, among many others, are examples of how great breakthroughs have been made without necessarily resorting to project plans, Gantt charts and the other helpful paraphernalia of modern project management.

Whilst the settings may be individual in their revelation, many are now clearly team efforts. Our virtual on line world has not prevented collaborative effort but it has taken away the natural human reactions and emotions of inadvertent consequences or unexpected outcomes. We do not have the “electric” excitement of joint celebration or the sharing of angst. How we mitigate or share our response to incoming information is a “tell” perfected by card players. But as leaders we need to be authentic and have to find the next gear to move forward whatever the circumstance.

Peter Shaw comments “that how you handle these unexpected events will define your leadership contribution”, in a useful and timely read about handling rapid change. The pharma industry has delivered great change, as have their regulators, this year. Their twists and turns, joys and disappointments have tested their leadership, management, scientific ability and integrity.

The nature of our responses with colleagues in the cockpit of Zoom or Teams will drive, depress, enliven, exhaust, inspire or flatten the contributions of colleagues. Where do you pitch yourself?

  • What is your first reaction to hearing of a major problem for the first time?
  • Imagine yourself in front of a mirror when a problem is revealed for the first time. What is the look?
  • What are your coping and self-management mechanisms in those situation ?
  • How can I support colleagues handling difficult issues in their area of responsibility?
  • Who is most effective in the team at reframing the problem, pathfinding a solution and then developing a plan and executing it?

Praesta coaches have been working across the private, public and third sectors this year supporting senior leaders address the challenges of leadership during the ebb and flow of the coronavirus crisis. All of our team have had senior level careers before becoming coaches. We would love to discuss with you how we can bring our learning and experiences across a range of sectors to support your leadership.

Nick Brown, Praesta Partners LLP

Further reading: Handling Rapid Change Ideas. Peter Shaw. Marshall Cavendish (2018)

Praesta Partners LLP is a team of experienced senior executives offering bespoke executive coaching & consulting services to boards and professionals worldwide.