The Sunday Magazine

Countries effectively managing COVID-19 have balanced 'public, private and plural sectors' says expert

Henry Mintzberg, a professor of management studies at McGill University on leadership in times of crisis, health care, and how our priorities are shifting during the pandemic.

‘Governments essentially protect us, businesses essentially supply us and communities essentially engage us’

A woman walks past a COVID-19 sign in Montréal-Nord on Thursday. Hanging up more informational posters is part of Montreal's plan to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the borough. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The COVID-19 crisis has presented the world with myriad opportunities for revising, rebuilding and renewing how leadership is practised, at every level.

Henry Mintzberg is a professor of management studies at McGill University.

Henry Mintzberg, a professor of management studies at McGill University, says it's revealing that many of the countries with the most successful COVID-19 responses are led by women. 

"Maybe ego is a big problem in so-called leadership. I'm a bigger fan of management than leadership. Leadership is important, but leadership points to an individual. And I think the places that are doing well don't have this cult of individuality or heroic sort of lofty leadership. They have teamwork and a lot of cooperation," he said. 

"Women may be much better at engaging all kinds of people who don't lead individually. They lead collectively."

In his view, the countries doing the best at managing the coronavirus pandemic are also the ones with the most balanced relationship between government, business and community — what he calls the "public, private and plural sectors."

"Governments essentially protect us, businesses essentially supply us and communities essentially engage us," he said. 

Women may be much better at engaging all kinds of people who don't lead individually. They lead collectively.- Henry Mintzberg

"I would say that it's a three legged stool. The plural [sector, or community], is an equal partner. It's not a compromise between the two. It's very much its own distinct thing. Community plays an absolutely critical role in keeping people engaged and connected."

He says the countries with the worst responses so far have been ones where that triangle is out of balance.

"Not coincidentally, the U.K. and the U.S., the two great liberal democracies of the world —  neither of which recognizes that liberal democracy has become illiberal and undemocratic — are among the worst. Certainly the U.S. by far, because they are utterly out of balance on the side of private sector forces."

Mintzberg spoke to The Sunday Edition's host Michael Enright about leadership in times of crisis, health care, and how our priorities are shifting during the pandemic. 

Click 'listen' above to hear the interview.

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