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Reflections on leadership during COVID-19

Earlier this week Niki Shaw, Strategic Manager: Quality & Performance at Somerset County Council posted a thread on Twitter - reflections on leadership during COVID-19. Below is that thread. It will speak to everyone who has been working through the pandemic in what every role. 

Introduction:

On a Wednesday night, as I was preparing my dinner after another busy day, I had this sudden sense of wanting to write down, capture and acknowledge how things were feeling for me, what things were playing on my mind - to almost process my own thoughts and reflections. I ended up logging what became a stream of consciousness on my twitter feed. As I pressed submit, not quite sure what I wanted in response or why I felt this need to share. These are not posts I usually compose or thoughts I share. My thread ended up getting a fair bit of attention, comments, shares and 'likes'. Many people across the country, including a lot of colleagues from health organisations, got in touch to say how much my reflections on recent weeks and months resonated and captured their own experiences and emotions. Although I wrote this originally on leadership during COVID, I think it is fair to say that actually these reflections are likely accurate for us all in many ways, whatever role we do, or organisation, team or service we work in

Personal reflections on leadership during Covid-19:

  • You know your colleagues and teams need your support now more than ever, not just professionally. You are conscious of this and you care. You feel you are never quite able to reach the standards you set yourself in meeting everyone’s needs and wants in the way you would wish to.
  • Your networks and contacts are likely to have grown considerably. Suddenly you are working with and for people or organisations you may previously never have. Cultures are different. They may not fully understand your role or remit. They are looking to you for help, and wanting to give it too.
  • Your capacity is pushed to the limit as you take on as much as you can to support your service in it’s response, as well as maintaining whatever of the ‘business as usual’ as you can. You won’t always get everything right. You will make mistakes. There will be good days and bad. You have to accept the ‘good enough’ more often than you would like.
  • Things aren’t static. New guidance is being issued constantly. You try to keep on top of it all, implement and respond to it. You know the same is true for all those around you.
  • You worry about the sustainability of the services you rely and the people dependent on that care and support. You want your communities to thrive and survive.
  • You are likely doing all the above in a virtual or distanced way. Your days merge into one another, spent in teleconferences and back-to-back meetings, often talking to faceless icons on a screen without the benefit of body language cues or the camaraderie you get from being in person.
  • Your miss your colleagues despite talking to them every day.
  • People are tired. You know this. You are tired too. You do your best to keep positive, keep energised.
  • There are opportunities everywhere you look. You want to embrace them all. It feels important. You need to be realistic and selective in what you can prioritise and achieve for now.
  • Much of what you do will go silently under the radar.
  • You know that despite all the hard work, all your combined efforts and activity, there is more that needs doing and ‘winter is coming
  • You have probably never achieved or delivered quite so much in such a condensed period of time or in so many varied strands of work. And yet somehow feel you are never quite as productive as you wish to be.
  • It is vital to remember that the challenges facing leaders, managers, and staff today, during COVID-19, are likely to be the toughest conditions you may face over such a prolonged period of time. The skills you are honing are making you stronger, more capable, more resilient, more aware, more reflective, more engaged, more prepared. The boundaries being broken and red tape being cut is delivering enormous innovation, and allowing leaders to emerge at all levels and deliver great things.
  • So, be kind to yourself as well as to others. Remember the value of empathy. It matters now more than ever and will get you through tough times. Keep persevering; don’t give up. You are doing a great job.

Thank you Niki, you speak for so many of us.