New study on pandemic leadership

Leadership in times of crisis has been an important theme in our course, and popular among students as an essay topic. One student, for example, addressed the question of whether women are the better crisis leaders. In the early months of the pandemic, many also attributed Germany’s relatively good response to the fact that the country’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, was a natural scientist. Joachim Wehner and Mark Hallerberg from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin have now examined these questions systematically. In their study “Pandemic Leadership: Did “Scientists” Lock Down More Quickly?” they found that leaders with science training have not outperformed other leaders in terms of their countries’ coronavirus responses, as detailed in an LSE Blog post. The also find that gender did not have a significant effect. However, their study focused just on one kind of response, the speed of a lockdown. Thus, the findings do not assess the quality and effectiveness of crisis management, e.g. in terms of death numbers or the days in which schools were closed down – aspects that severely affected society. While, as the authors say, generalizations about certain leadership traits have to be treated with caution, further research is needed on which individual, team or political factors led to better crisis response.

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