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Leadership will engage people to work together creatively

Amy C. Edmondson/Photo: Collected

Amy C. Edmondson is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management. She recently talked to Harvard Business School how the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to change business practice.

I hope we will come to learn that hiding bad news is never a good idea. That will mean recommitting ourselves to mastering the leadership skills to tell the truth and to engage people in the hard work of creation solutions together.

Mastering the design and management of teams will become an even more critical focus—or more accurately, mastering what I have called teaming—working in flexible groups with shifting membership, often from different locations, to address particular challenges. Depending on how long the current state lasts, we may see a shift away from static organizational structures toward dynamic team forms. This only works well under conditions of psychological safety, when leaders have made it crystal clear that every team member is welcome to speak up with ideas, concerns, and yes, bad news.

It is unprecedented to have a large cohort of people all over the world start working remotely at the same moment. The only parallel I can think of is from World War II, when waves of women entered heavy manufacturing for the first time. This current case is even more remarkable because it is moving so quickly. The shift has happened in days, not months. Businesses may be able to learn how to move faster, acting in more agile ways, as a result.


Her comment is first published at Harvard Business School titled ‘How the Coronavirus Is Already Rewriting the Future of Business’. 

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