Governments have shown leadership by announcing or implementing strong fiscal measures, many at an unprecedented scale and speed. Almost all nations have shut borders and put arrivals in quarantine but a (brave) few have locked down a city, region or the entire country. Effective strong government leadership, which I define as setting and implementing informed fiscal and public health goals with the compliance of the general population, has generally been achieved through open communication and either imposed (China) or compassionate (New Zealand) leadership.
China is an example of an enforced leadership that imposed drastic measures on a section of its population but openly communicated its actions, progress and results locally and globally. The leadership in New Zealand, on the other hand, showed compassion and openly communicated its reasoning, priorities and actions in response to the coronavirus threat and has earned the respect and co-operation of almost all the population in locking down the entire country.
Both China and New Zealand made mistakes along the way but admitted and learned from those mistakes. Having accepted and openly communicated the strategy of accepting short term pain for long term gain, they made hard decisions and look set to be among those emerging soonest and healthiest from the social, economic and fiscal storm in which the world finds itself. Yet, the leaders of some nations refuse to admit the size of the threat or in some cases, its very existence.
Many countries’ leaders, governments, media and people are still debating what to do or are openly in denial of the inevitable breaching of their border(s) by this unprecedented health and social threat. Most of those nations (both industrialised and emerging) are run by leaders who are no more than poster boys with egos and spin doctors, who think, speak and act out of self-interest and/or for political (or personal) gains and who seek only to reinforce or retain their power. They are leaders of nations in name only. They are not true leaders of their people, which is what the world needs now. They risk their nation and people suffering not only huge health, social and economic damage during and after the coronavirus pandemic but also isolation and loss of international prestige afterwards. One, in particular falls far short of his predecessors’ self-proclaimed title of leader of the free world.
To be a leader in the world, those at the top of the power pyramid in each country must show leadership in their own country, which means that they must seek informed advice to implement social and fiscal policies, and must view and interact with the world with an open mind and an open heart. And they must do it now!