Leadership During COVID-19: Conflict and Collaboration

Why Is It News?
The United States has been harder hit by the COVID-19 pandemic than any other country, with more than 1 million cases and more than 74,000 deaths. This has drawn scrutiny to the country’s approach to crisis management and the leadership style of President Trump, who remarked “It is what it is” in response to the rising death toll. The lack of federal leadership has also introduced tension between state leaders and city leaders, with some city mayors and elected leaders pushing to re-open cities in defiance of statewide lockdown orders, such as Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman offering up the city as a test case (by contrast, some Italian mayors urged local residents to abide by stay-at-home orders). On an even more micro level, business leaders, such as Tesla’s Elon Musk, have clashed with local city leadership in attempts to re-open business well ahead of lockdowns being formally lifted.
Angela Merkel, on the other hand, has been called a “global leader” in the crisis and has managed to keep Germany’s number of total cases just over 180,000 and deaths below 9,000. Her approval ratings have also skyrocketed amidst the crisis. Australia and New Zealand, with prime ministers on opposite ends of the political spectrum, won praise for successfully collaborating—despite political differences—to reduce cases and reopen their countries.

Discussion Questions
• 1. Has the pandemic changed what you consider to be effective or ineffective leadership?
• 2. What does the contrast between national leaders, like Merkel and Trump, say about the public perception of what entails good leadership in a crisis?
• 3. How do you think COVID-19 will impact leadership in future crisis events? Do you think leaders will learn from this?

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