MAY 6, 2020
58 Minutes and 21 Seconds
Leaders around the world have taken vastly different approaches to combatting COVID-19. What does it take to be an effective leader during this global pandemic? What should citizens and practitioners do when leadership at the very top falls short? Listen to this Wiener Conference Call with Ambassador Wendy Sherman to hear her discuss this topic and respond to caller questions.
Wiener Conference Calls recognize Malcolm Wiener’s role in proposing and supporting this series as well as the Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.
Good day everyone. I am Mari Megias in the office of Alumni Relations and Resource Development at Harvard Kennedy School and I’m very pleased to welcome you to this Wiener Conference Call. As we all continue to work remotely, we are providing more opportunities for you to connect with Harvard Kennedy School faculty, so watch your email for future invitations. Also, given that we all are working remotely, we’re running these calls a bit differently, so apologies in advance for any issues we may experience.
Today we are joined by Ambassador Wendy Sherman, who is director of the Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership and professor of the practice of public leadership. Ambassador Sherman served as undersecretary of state for political affairs, the fourth ranking official in the US Department of State from 2011 to 2015. During the Clinton administration, she was a special advisor to the president and to the secretary of state as well as the North Korea policy coordinator. She also served as the lead negotiator for the Iran Nuclear Deal. Formerly, she had worked as a social worker, as the director of Maryland Office of Child Welfare, as the founding president of the Fannie Mae Foundation, and as the director of EMILY’s List. We’re so fortunate that she has chosen to share her thoughts on leadership in the COVID era with the Kennedy School’s alumni and friends. Ambassador Sherman.
It’s terrific to be with you all today. Thank you very much Mari. First of all, let me say to everyone on the phone, I hope that you, your family, your loved ones, your colleagues are all staying safe and well. This is just a really, really difficult time for everyone. I will say though that it does sometimes make for interesting changes. One of my colleagues at the Center for Public Leadership has two small children. Both she and her husband, of course, they’re working at home. Her husband has a business that works on computers. He’s been very, very, very busy. Her six year old daughter came downstairs and said, “Dad, I’ve got a surprise for you. You’ve been working very, very hard.” Came upstairs to his office to find that she had a bucket of soap and water and she had washed his computer. Fortunately, nothing horrible happened to the computer. But it was both a sweet, endearing and unexpected consequence of how so many of us are living. But all of us on this phone call probably have some form of income, home, people we love and resources. I’m very grateful for that and start my day with that kind of gratitude because there’s a lot of difficulty in this time for all of us, even those of us who are blessed. I also want to thank Malcolm and Caroline Wiener for supporting these calls. I’m very partial to that name, Malcolm, it was my father’s name and the middle name for one of my grandsons. I’m so very grateful for your support today.
There are lots of things that we could talk about today regarding leadership in the time of coronavirus. We certainly are going to talk about what makes a good leader in this time. We could talk about whether autocrat do better than Democrats. We could talk about whether leadership is going to be different in the developing world as coronavirus spreads in the Southern hemisphere. We can talk about whether people approach this quite differently depending upon the history of their country. Certainly Sweden is an outlier in taking on herd immunity. And we can certainly talk about the 7% of the heads of state who are women who seem to be doing a pretty good job. So I’m going to touch on a couple of these and then we can get to the rest of them in questions if you all so choose.
I must say, when I think about leadership in general, I always start with Warren Bennis, one of the fathers of leadership thinking in his famous book, On Becoming a Leader. He said a leader should have a guiding vision, a passion, a hope and inspiration, have integrity, self-knowledge, candor, maturity. That leaders should in-view trust, which is a product of effective leadership. A leader should have curiosity and daring, a sense of wonder and not always worried about failure. A leader, Bennis said, innovates, develops, focuses on people, thinks long range, challenges, does the right thing.
Another model that I’ve written about recently comes out of the Army Field Manual, which is still used today at West Point to teach future leaders in the army, in our military about how to be leaders. That framework is called be, know, do. ‘Be’ is about character. Having the courage to do what’s right, understanding the values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, personal courage. Knowing, getting the knowledge and skillsets necessary for interpersonal skills, conceptual skills, technical and tactical skills. Doing, providing purpose and direction through action and influence. With ‘do’ only coming after ‘be’ and ‘know’. Ronnie Heifetz reminds us that in all these qualities, the context matters. And that certainly is the case here as he teaches about adaptive leadership but also acknowledges that authentic leadership, understanding who you are is important. At the Center for Public Leadership we teach servant leadership. Having the millage to understand that you are being a leader for a common purpose, not just for your own self-aggrandizement.
We also all look at history. I know when I spoke with Larry Bacow soon after coming to Harvard Kennedy School, he told me that he really reads history to understand leadership. And Doris Kearns Goodwin’s recent book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, is just fantastic in that regard as she looks at Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Each, she points, out grew in a time of challenge and crisis. They showed resilience, strong communication skills, openness, impulse control, empathy. Similarly, as I’m reading The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, the biography of Churchill, and I’ve read many, Churchill was another leader who showed resilience, communication skills, openness, impulse control of the sort, empathy, and was able to pivot when necessary in an ungodly situation as Hitler came to Great Britain. Like many of these leaders, they didn’t always tell their citizens the full truth, often used white lies.
But as Joe Nye has pointed out as he talks about morals mattering in leadership in his recent book, any of their untruths were really other-regarding not self-serving. Some may argue Vietnam was a different situation in the Civil Rights Movement, and indeed it was, but it’s very important to understand that all leaders, all leaders don’t tell all full truth all of the time. The issue is whether it is other-regarding or self-regarding. Now Arjen Boin, a Dutch scholar, writes in The Politics of Crisis Management, the following qualities for management in a time of crisis. After rapid recognition of the danger, deliver the initial message quickly, have infrastructure in place so that you’re able to collect data and do what he calls sense making. Decide how much to rely on individual cooperation and community building consensus and when one needs to command and control. Craft a narrative that clarifies and unites. Understand that you need to attain permissive consensus and that you need consistency. Be open about the evolving nature of the problem because in crisis, one never knows at the start all that one will know as the crisis evolve.
Others suggest that one shouldn’t be binary in the approach to a problem, that at the same time a buffet of choices doesn’t help. The choices do need to be narrowed, but one does need to pivot as circumstances change. Now, I’m going to be US focused for a couple of moments and then turn to the rest of the world. In America, we have seen some really fine examples of leadership in crisis and I want to first mention all the Americans on the front line. They are really showing what it means to be principled effective leaders. They are doing what they need to do. They’re trying to message where we need to go. 85% of our nurses are women. 76% of all healthcare jobs are women, and I will come back to women’s leadership in a moment. But what people have done on the front lines, whether they are the delivery clerk who bring groceries to our home, the folks who stock our shelves, the people who work in the factories that are still operating for PPE or for our food, these are all just extraordinary leaders.
The volunteers who are doing amazing things in our communities to try to help out in times of need. The food banks that are helping those who have no other way to feed their families, really quite extraordinary. I say that President Bacow, of Harvard University and Doug Elmendorf, the Dean of Harvard Kennedy School, have been superb leaders. Larry very quickly closed Harvard University. He didn’t wait until there were multiple cases of coronavirus. At the first sign that infection was coming, not only to Massachusetts into Boston, but to Cambridge, he closed the university. Our staff was ready with financial assistance, transportation aid. Within 24 hours, we abandoned the campus. Extraordinary leadership with very clear messages conveyed to everyone to try to help. Doug Elmendorf has done the same at the Kennedy School. Those clear messages, understanding and being clear about what uncertainties still remain, have continued and will continue as we approach the fall semester.
We’ve seen at local levels, people like Sara Cody, the Santa Clara County public health officer who gathered together six other colleagues in the seven counties around the San Francisco Bay Area when the first case came, moved as a public health official to see the leadership that she has the authority to exercise and closed all those counties. We’ve seen governors, Democrats and Republicans not think about the next election, but to do what’s right. Governors DeWine of Ohio, Hogan of Maryland, Baker here in Massachusetts, Cuomo of New York, Newsom, California, Kelly in Kansas and others. Mayors, Jenny Durkan of Seattle, Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, Francis Suarez of Miami, Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans, and more who have taken really difficult actions and are standing up to protest. We all believe in the right of protest in the United States, but it is also critical for our leaders to continue what is necessary for the common good. There have been business leaders and civil society leaders who have mattered as well, and international organizations who have led not perfectly, not without warts, but have tried to lead, including the WHO, which just held a pledging conference to raise eight billion dollars for a common vaccine platform, even though the United States sadly did not attend. And Bill Gates, who has long been a leader in the public health arena and continues to be so.
Of course, internationally, we’ve seen President Moon of South Korea, prime minister Ardern of New Zealand, Angela Merkel of Germany, prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir of Iceland, Sanna Marin of Finland, President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan. All of these leaders have different cultures, histories and some unique advantages. None of us should forget that New Zealand can easily close its borders and is dealing with only five million people, but they’ve all followed the guidance of leading in a crisis that I mentioned. I can’t end these opening remarks and I want to leave lots of time for questions and discussion with talking about the women leaders.
We don’t have all the answers how women leaders seem to have shined during this time and clearly there are male leaders like President Jae-in of the Republic of Korea who have also done a superb job. But nonetheless, since women are only 7% of heads of state, it is quite remarkable how many have stood out. Many are asking why and some of us hope to do some research in amongst of heads to gather evidence and apply rigor to understanding, but initially some prior work indicates the following. Oddly, when we think about it, maybe not so oddly, women are more likely to be seen as go-to people in health crises. It really goes back to who we turned to when we skinned our knees as children or needed chicken soup to take care of a cold. We went to women. Women tended to be school nurses that our children saw and grew up with. Women who get to be heads of state have worked really hard to get there, met many challenges and had to develop a repertoire of skills that is quite diverse. Both what we call male and female skills.
Carol Gilligan, when she wrote the book, In a Different Voice, many years ago, the basis of some of the further books about Mars versus Venus noted that women tend to define themselves in relationship to other people. Men more often, of course these are somewhat stereotypes, but have truth embedded in them, men tend to see themselves as leaders out in the world supported by others. And so women have learned to operate horizontally, not just vertically and understand the need to build a community. Women generally, because it’s been tough to get where they are, are generally not overconfident. They have some measure of humility and we find that women leaders tend therefore to consult experts and they do that for two reasons. One, because they understand they need to build community and they’re comfortable consulting others, but secondly, they know their decisions may be questioned and so having validators help people to gain confidence in their decisions.
Women we know may not always be good at negotiating for themselves, standing up for themselves around salary and position, but women we see in the literature tend to be quite good at negotiating for common purpose and for the common good. Women tend in a crisis to define roles, to set targets and to inspire. Women tend to have more emotional intelligence. Some of this goes to which part of the brain we are more likely to use and a part of our biological makeup that allows us to express empathy, which is quite critical in a time of crisis. One example of course, has stood out a great deal and talked about a great deal and that is prime minister Ardern of New Zealand and part because she handled the Christ church shooting so incredibly well in her country and the volcanic eruption quite well as well. We all think she’s quite amazing that she had a child soon after becoming prime minister and is able to multitask in the way that she does. She is relatable and firm. She pursued elimination, not mitigation. She shut down New Zealand at a hundred cases.
She and other ministers took a 20% pay cut for six months to show solidarity with everyone in New Zealand. She is smart, empathetic and a superb communicator. She trusted science, she consulted experts and she guided herself with their views. Before going into the lockdown, working with others in her parliament, she announced a New Zealand $12.1 billion coronavirus package to support business, increase benefits for seniors and low-income families, pay those who couldn’t go to work, boost testing and intensive care capacity. And interestingly, she told citizens not to release their retirement funds but to hold on to them and she would help them find a way forward.
We have a lot of work to do to test these assumptions and to understand if women really are better leaders in times of crisis. And as I mentioned, we have a lot of men who have also lead quite well at this time. I haven’t focused these remarks on the president of the United States. I’m happy to answer questions about that, but I think we need to take a broader lens and use all of our capabilities at the Kennedy School at Harvard to really understand how we go from Bennis’s original conception of a leader, the Army Field Manual on ‘be’ ‘know’ ‘do’, the models of authentic and adaptive leadership and really understand how we have the best leaders in a time of coronavirus. So I’ll stop there, and I really look forward to this conversation on this and all of the other topics I mentioned at the top.
Q: So, I’d like to start things off by asking a question regarding something you mentioned at the top of your talk, which is, you mentioned autocrats and democrats, which does better in this kind of crisis?
I think we don’t know the full answer to that yet. I think that there was a lot of concern as this crisis evolved that autocrat whether or out now authoritarian leaders, whether you’re looking at China or Singapore which is certainly not a dictatorial country but is a more authoritarian country than the United States, would do better. I think the jury is out. I think it is clear that democratic leaders can do quite well. I named a number of countries that have done exceedingly well that are in different parts of the world. I think we have a lot less to learn in this arena about how this virus started, what times of actions needed to be taken, how history, culture, forms of government impact how things move forward. But I think what we also don’t know is the long-term outcomes.
Was China to able to close down Wuhan in ways that we certainly would not support? Yes. Xi Jinping was able to do that. We saw people dragged away to jail if they didn’t participate. We saw people who suddenly disappeared into prisons or otherwise. We’re seeing some of that in Russia right now when people, doctors who speak out against Putin mysteriously fall from high floors in tall buildings. I think we need to understand what the costs are of the kinds of actions that were taken in China. Singapore was quite strict, but they have a culture of discipline. It’s how Singapore developed as the city state that it is. Some of that exists in Hong Kong as well. But we will have to see how this evolves.
For democrats, for democratic states, I think there are many who have done well, but I do think we have a lot of research and understanding to do about what happens in the immediate instance and what the long-term consequences are. I think for democratic countries who have done well, the long-term outcome will be far better than those countries like China who used really horrendous tactics to achieve a reopening of their societies.
Q: My question relates to race relations at the time and how leaders are using race in terms of addressing the coronavirus and perhaps to further their own agendas. I think we’ve seen that with a lot of comments on the Wuhan virus. I think even in my parent’s home country of India, we’re seeing a lot of anti-China rhetoric. I’m curious if you could comment on that. I also wanted to comment that while I appreciated the good qualities of Winston Churchill’s leadership, it’s well known amongst the Indian community and outside that he’s made terrible disparaging racist remarks against this community and I wonder what it would take to perhaps stop using him as an example. Thank you.
Sure. Really important comments. Race is being used politically all over the world, certainly here in the United States in ways that are profoundly horrible. And we know that there are terrible disparities in who is dying of coronavirus in the United States. The African American community here is sadly per capita taking a toll that other communities are not and to an extent, a lesser extent, but still to a disparity. Hispanic populations, Asian Americans, and that may be true for Indian Americans as well, I don’t know the answer to that demographic. But your broader point about how political leaders are using race for their own purposes is unfortunately, as you point out with Churchill, something that has been used politically over the centuries and never to the good in the long run.
I don’t know that we will ever stop using Churchill as an example because of what was faced in World War II by the Nazis. But I certainly think it is well worth a discussion for us to all understand leaders who allow things to take place. Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not take action soon enough to prevent Jews from being taken to concentration camps. Many of us watched Plot Against America recently, Philip Roth book that talked about what would have happened if Lindbergh had become present. We know that in your parents’ home country, Mr. Modi has pitted Hindus against Muslims, in, in my view, horrific ways, and now calling this the China virus, the Wuhan virus is equally not only disparaging but destructive.
Look, I think there should be investigations about what happened in China, it appears that coronavirus started much earlier perhaps in January. How it happened, I think we all do have to understand for purposes of science and what will come forward. But to all of those things across borders, by the way the climate challenges that we continue to face, pandemics, terrorism, all things across borders, nothing’s going to be solved over the long-run unless the United States and China, and all countries around the world are working together. So, it does not do us good to take the break that you’re suggesting.
Q: Wonderful talk and thank you for taking the time. My question is that women are often almost stereotypically associated with risk aversion. We see this in business, we see this in government, in almost every manifestation of women in leadership roles. But Wendy, you would have a thought on this particular question given your book, Not for the Faint of Heart. But when you think about some of the wonderful women leaders that you spoke to or spoke about, whether it’s Jacinda in New Zealand or Angela Merkel in Germany, these wonderful leaders who’ve done very well in the coronavirus, what would be your response to the association that this is simply women being risk averse rather than manifestations of really truly competent leadership?
I don’t think they’re risk adverse at all. I think that framework is a framework that we have adopted in a male-oriented society that somehow you are not a good leader unless you were willing to take risks. I think that in fact these women took extraordinary risks by shutting down their countries at a time that people didn’t understand why. When Sara Cody made the decision in the San Francisco Bay Area as a public health officer, not even an elected official, as a public health officer to gather other public health officers and use what authority she had to shut it down. That was extraordinary risk-taking. She could have been completely maligned by the community for doing that, but she knew out of her expertise that it was the right thing to.
Now, we’ll see Jacinda Ardern is up for reelection this fall, and we’ll see how this plays in New Zealand. Whether she is in fact confirmed or unaffirmed for what she did. But I think we all have to reimagine and restate and reframe what risk taking is about. Risk taking is not recklessness. Risk taking can be as much taking cautionary action as anything. What Sara Cody did, what prime minister Ardern did, what President Moon did was bold.
Q: My question is, who’s worse, President Trump or President Xi of China and how would you compare the two relative to each other as leaders compare according to Warren Bennis or the Army Field Manual?
I’m going to try to be very analytical in response to this question, but I actually think a great case study could be written comparing these two gentlemen. I think that, I did an op-ed which I’m happy to have Mari share with you all if you’d like, that was in USA Today that talked about how I thought President Trump was not paying attention to the Army Field Manual. I think it’s particularly important since he’s off to West Point soon. And secretary Pompeo was first in his class at West Point. So I think it would be worthwhile his taken some time to read it. I think what is most important and most missing for me where President Trump is concerned is a sense of humility and a sense of empathy, humility that he doesn’t know everything. I appreciate that he has brought Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx into decision making. I appreciate that he’s trying to balance something that’s very, very difficult, which is keeping people safe and making sure they have a livelihood. That is a tough, tough job. But I think that if he had some more humility, if he made sure that he listened to some of that science a little bit more than he has, if he realized that although we have a federal system that some things must be done nationally and centrally including using the full force of the Defense Production Act to make sure not only that we have PPE, but that we have testing, that we have all that we need. I think we would be further along than we are right now.
At the same time, President Xi who did shut down Wuhan and did deliver a message, operates in a country where there are incredibly strict controls, a completely different culture, oppressive tactics that we wouldn’t and shouldn’t tolerate. He has made himself president for life. To compare the two leaders means that one has to compare the cultures, the form of government, the downsides. So even though I think per capita we are suffering at an extraordinary degree and like all on this phone call, I’m sure we wish the number of cases every day would start to go down in a substantial way, I still would prefer to be here than to be in China.
Q: I’m going to pose a counter intuitive comment and I seek your response. There has been so much written about leadership that could actually fill thousands and thousands of linear feet and yet it does not even come close to achieving any precise response or answer. What about the idea, and I’m quoting now Rudolf Otto, going back post Kantian in terms of the mysterium tremendum, the idea of the ethos, the fear when one enters into the office of the leader, that people tend to become intimidated. Why is it that that happens? Because you need to have a critical opposition grounded in respect and most individuals would appreciate that ideally over time and in moments of crisis. Why or how can one calibrate those that rise to the moment? And you have mentioned some examples, but yet in terms of there is no magic potion that one can consume to provide leadership that is both inspirational, intellectual, judgmental and also designed to appeal to everyone. I apologize for the long-winded comment, and discussion is important. What would your response be in terms of how can one attempt to assuage those that are lacking voice? And I thank you.
Sure. Look, here in the United States, when we had our election in 2016, there was a great deal of uncertainty about the future for a large part of our country. There were people who had gotten a lot out of globalization. The fact that the world was interconnected, which we certainly learned in the 2008 financial crisis when we realized we were not decoupled from China or from other countries, and that we all had to figure out a way to rise together. But a lot of people got left out and left behind and felt that they did not get heard. I think that was combined here in the United States with a sense that social change was happening very, very fast. I believe that people should be able to marry whom they love, but that change here in the United States came very fast in historical terms.
Women were in the workplace and challenging for C-suite offices in new ways because they’d come up through the ranks and so now had begun to say and demand their place. People of color in the United States felt certainly that they had been left out and left behind and wanted social justice in this country. There were two possible, and I’m talking in somewhat reductionist terms here, two possible reactions to that. Fear and hope, to give people a sense that together we could solve those problems and meet those interests and needs or fear sort of going with the rage and saying, “I can fix this for you. Come with me.” We’ve seen leaders in the past, Hitler and Mussolini were elected, they were not appointed, they were elected out of a time of nationalism and great fear. My former colleague, business partner, friend and former boss, Madeleine Albright, wrote a book called Fascism: A Warning, not to say that the United States was fascist, we are not. But she did say that the president was most undemocratic leader because she thought he was playing on the fear side of that equation, not the hope and let’s rise together side.
Now we’re in a complex world and the coronavirus has shown us, in fact a really counterfactual, which is the very fact that we are so connected and this virus can spread around the world, forces us to be physically apart. The very fact that we have globalization may mean that people will rethink their supply chains if that is even possible in the way we operate in the world. So there is going to be and needs to be a lot of rethinking about where we are, what kind of leadership works best, how we forge this new future. Because no matter who is elected in the United States in November, whoever becomes the next prime minister of New Zealand, whoever becomes the next chancellor of Germany or who continues to be president or changes in Africa or in Latin America, the world is very going to be very different now. Very different.
So, leaders are going to have to decide which of those somewhat reductionist, binary choice because it’s not totally binary of course, whether the leader will go with hope or with fear. I hope of course they choose hope and helping people through the extraordinary challenges we have in front of us, which are extraordinary.
Q: President Trump often seems to approach leadership from the standpoint that he wants to please and support only his base or his supporters rather than, I think, as if he’s the leader of all of us, he can be hostile to individuals, groups, institutions, cities and States that he feels don’t support him. Can you talk for a minute about this particular phenomenon in leadership which are bitterly divisive political environment has exacerbated a leader who appears not to care about the wishes or wellbeing of all of his constituents?
Well, I don’t think you’d be surprised to hear that I appreciate your comments. It’s what I spoke about earlier in what Joe Nye in his terrific book looking at foreign policy and presidents, whether morals matter. It does matter whether one is self-regarding or other regarding. The president has, in my view, chosen to be more self-regarding than other regarding. I read a description of him recently and the writer pointed out and wondered whether the president has any inner life. Most of us have some self-reflection, some effort at insight into ourselves, take feedback to try to become better people. Whatever your faith or lack of formal religious experience, many of us have some form of spiritual sense of thinking about broader purposes than ourselves and what that means for us. We teach at the Kennedy School and at the Center for Public Leadership, servant leadership as I mentioned before, that leadership is not about self-aggrandizement. It has to be done with humility.
He was elected to serve, not for us to serve him. So it is very disappointing to me. It is a strain in American political history that has unfortunately long roots, the partisan divide we see does not belong to just one party or to one group of people in our country. We have a divide. That divide has grown and it will take a leader of some natural ability to have the compassion, the humility and the wisdom to bring together the people that can get us past a very, I think corrupting influence on our ability to face these challenges that are now much more difficult than they’ve ever been.
Q: Listening on your reflections, I am wondering about how can we address a crisis that is global, a crisis that it has been proven that we are all safe only as long as others are safe and that it will be actually self-serving for countries to help each other in addressing the crisis. We know that COVID-19 will be very, very different for the developed countries and for developing countries. We know that developing countries are having a very hard time on dealing with the pandemic. What would be your recommendation in terms of the promotion of more collaboration, of a global response of using multilateralism and the tools that we do have to fight a pandemic that is global and that we know that inward looking approaches will not be the solution at the end?
I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, the Hill is going to print an op-ed I’ve just written sometime in the next few days. I don’t know what headline they’ll use, but the one I used when I sent it to them is, Why We Should Give a Damn About the Rest of the World. It’s quite critical that we do so in my view. And I’ll just quickly go through the six reasons why it’s important. There’s a boomerang effect. If the developing world, which has many fewer resources and not a lot of sophisticated healthcare systems, has a huge breakout. If we start to travel again and it appears that people are, it is likely to have a boomerang effect, which means we will have more coronavirus here. If we don’t deal with other countries, that boomerang effect will intensify.
When we had the HIV AIDS crisis, the US and other countries rushed to help in other countries because we knew there was a resurgence issue. When the Ebola crisis hit, we rushed to Africa both out of humanitarian concern, but also, we didn’t want the Ebola crisis in the United States. Third, our medical and economic supply chain is international and as I pointed out, that may change in the years ahead or people may try to change it, but right now it is. So, the Chinese are our soybean market as we’ve all understood from the president. A lot of our ingredients come from other countries. A lot of our fresh fruits come from other countries. So we have to care and come from the Southern hemisphere. We have to care. A lot of minerals come from Africa, resources from Africa. So we have to care. Fourth, we need international organizations. Imperfect as the WHO is, as I mentioned earlier, they have just held a pledging conference and created a platform for common vaccine development and distribution to make sure no one is left behind.
Fifth, other countries have important lessons for us to learn. As I pointed out earlier on this call. Six, the virus reminds us that we are interconnected and as I pointed out earlier, climate change can only be dealt with if we all work together, particularly those of us who were the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. So, I could not agree with you more, but quite frankly it’s going to take a lot of world leaders who are humble, who are sophisticated, who are compassionate, who yes, take care of their own people’s interests. That’s what they were elected to do. But to be able to do that one has to understand how the rest of the world interacts with us and that on many issues we all rise or fall together.
Q: As you well envisage, this is not the time for the faint of heart. I can remember very, very few moments where leaders have been confronted by such challenging situations. In the last years, the populists’ have gained in many, many countries from both sides of the aisle. I was wondering if you could share with us your thoughts on the perspectives of the futures of these regimes and their leaders? What will happen to them after this COVID-19 crisis and how are they going to be at the end of the tunnel?
Great question. I wish I knew the answer because I think the impulse is for greater populism and greater nationalism and more of the far right to emerge in many countries by way of saying we have to take care of ourselves first. We need to change our reliance on the rest of the world, we need to make sure that we have the livelihoods we need going forward, which of course we do. So my instinct is unfortunately that we will see a further rise of hyper nationalism because not all nationalism is bad, but hyper nationalism and probably a stronger populism and far right parties particularly in Europe emerging. I hope that’s not the case. I hope that people are more focused on how they can move forward in their lives, but history has told us unfortunately, even in times of great uncertainty and challenge that we often see the rise of hyper nationalism. But we’ll all have to watch in another area of important research and assessment by my colleagues.
Q: I’m interested in the connection between leadership and culture and the way leaders affect culture, change it, enhance it, and what their important role is affecting the culture of the organizations that they lead.
Fabulous question. And if some on this call know, because I thank those who’ve mentioned my book, Not for the Faint Of Heart, on one of these calls some time ago about the book. I taught a course in the fall that was about everything you really need to know to get the job done away from the table because so many of our students focus on being in the room for a negotiation when in fact it is history and culture and politics and policy and several other things that really shape what happens at the negotiating table. And unless you understand those things, you won’t be able to get the job done that you’ve set out to do. The same is absolutely true for leaders. One of the things I hope and some work I hope we’re able to do around women’s leadership is to really rigorously bear it out how much is cultural, historical, the norms of particular societies versus the particular skill sets that women may bring to the table because of how they’ve come up through the ranks.
Culture is critical to leadership, to understanding different forms of leadership and different complexions of leadership. Quite, quite important to understand. I often say to people, when I think about what I’ve done in national security and foreign policy, Asia versus the United States, we think culturally and normatively and politically in terms of two, four, six and eight years. Our members of Congress, many of our governors, our senator, six years. Our presidents four years and maybe eight years. Most in Asia, again I don’t want to be reductionist, so excuse any stereotypical language here, but many in Asia think in terms of dynasties or generations, really long swaths of history as opposed to the United States, which is a relatively young country. That makes a difference in how we approach things in short-term thinking versus long-term thinking, in patience versus persistence. So I quite agree with you and I think in everything we do, we need to think about that factor in our assessments, in our scholarship, in our analysis. So thank you for the question.
Yes, thank you for that question and answer and thank you to everyone who called into today’s Wiener Conference Call. We’re sorry that we didn’t get to all the questions. I’d like to also thank Ambassador Wendy Sherman for her time today.