Looking after everyone... what does good leadership look like in a pandemic?

Good leadership in the pandemic will look a lot like good leadership at other times.

The pandemic and the lockdown have brought exceptional challenges for staff working in health and social care in all their diverse roles and settings.

You don’t need to be able to predict the future or have all the answers, but if you can keep working with your people in a spirit of collaboration and respect, then you’ll help your teams get through this.

We hope the following resources are helpful.

Psychological First Aid (PFA) is an evidence-informed approach to help people in the immediate aftermath of a major incident. It is designed to foster adaptive functioning and coping and is based on a set of principles that we know help people to cope with and recover following emergencies. These principles are:

Psychological First Aid infographic

Examples of PFA during COVID-19 would be:

  1. Making sure basic needs are met whilst on shift (e.g. break times or access to PPE)
  2. Holding in mind staff who may be more vulnerable to distress due to pre-existing difficulties with their own mental health or mounting pressures of home and work life.
  3. Encouraging staff to use social support systems at work . Having a sense of common purpose and camaraderie at work has been shown to reduce long term impacts of responding to major incidents, including previous pandemics. (See more on our research page.)

You can read more about the principles and practice of  Psychological First Aid here

Please click this link  to access an e-module on PFA

The pandemic has required us to work in different ways, often for longer hours and under great pressure. We’ve been urged to pace ourselves, for a “marathon not a sprint”, but that’s hard to do when we are working in health and social care and see the needs of patients, clients and staff.

Managers influence the tone and culture in the workplace and this is especially important when we talk about  staff well-being. There’s little point trying to encourage your staff to take care of themselves if you’re not looking after yourself. Be aware that if you don’t take breaks, and are sending emails at midnight, your staff may feel they need to do the same.

Don’t underestimate the power you have to model the importance of rest and recuperation, both within the working day and outside of work.

Remember that we all do different things to relax so encourage people to do what works for them. Make people aware of the support that is available and make it easy for them to use it.

It’s OK to be OK; it’s OK not to be OK. We’re all human and we’re all in this together.

During the pandemic many within the Health and Social Care workforce have been asked to learn new skills, work in different settings, on their own or with new team members and to utilise alternative approaches to how they would usually deliver care.

The impact of change both professionally and, importantly, personally can cause people to feel anxious or stressed and calls for compassionate professional leadership.

Research suggests that the most effective leaders consistently demonstrate compassion by:

  1. Being present; they pay attention to people and “listen with fascination”
  2. Empathising with people and their situation
  3. Having the motivation to help; taking action to make a difference where necessary
  4. Developing a shared understanding of the situation they face.

Leaders can lead by example, creating a culture where asking for help is seen as courageous and insightful, rather than a sign of weakness.  They can also sign-post and engage staff with appropriate support and help.

Adapted from Why compassionate leadership matters at a time of crisis Suzie Bailey and Michael West, The Kings Fund

Michael West from the Kings Funds talks more about compassion in leadership here

There are a number of initiatives to help you as a leader.

These include access to the Communications Toolkit, Coaching for Wellbeing and management support through Project Lift. 

This audio is from a full webinar which you can access here.



Dave, Doctor.

“It’s been more collegiate and collaborative but our anxiety is the good things will be lost”

Elspeth, Doctor.

“It’s only taken a global pandemic to get recognition and coordination of ongoing work around staff well being!”

Neil, King's College London.

“We should be aiming not just for staff not becoming unwell but for post traumatic growth.”

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