Session 6: Situational Briefing & Learning from History to Act Now and Prepare for the Future: Leading Through a Multi-stage Crisis

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Woman wearing a mask on an empty train.

I know and really appreciate the mayors who are with us now and the work that they do–and how they are the first line of defense in meeting the needs of the constituents in their cities.” - Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi

In the sixth session, Nancy Koehn, James E. Robison chair of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and Jorrit de Jong, Faculty Director of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, and Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School, explored principles of leadership to effectively guide teams and communities during an unprecedented, multi-stage crisis. Dr. Josh Sharfstein, Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering and the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provided critical public health updates and guidance on preventing the spread of the virus in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi advised the mayors to rely on science in her welcoming remarks.

Key Takeaways

What We Can Learn from Ernest Shackleton’s Polar Expedition

In the middle of a public health crisis unlike anything you’ve seen before, you may be wondering why we’re talking about an Antarctic expedition that took place over 100 years ago. Even three months ago seems a world away. But that is precisely the point.

Shackleton sailed toward the South Pole with one mission in mind: to lead the first expedition across the Antarctic continent. Abruptly, he found himself and his crew facing a very different set of circumstances: an iced-in (and eventually sinking) ship and a slow-burn crisis that would play out over nearly two years, with peaks of intensity and peril—and many long, hard, tedious days and weeks in between. And yet, he managed the impossible, safely leading himself and his crew of 27 men through some of the most grueling physical and psychological trials in human experience.

In your cities right now, you, too, are facing challenges nobody has seen before, and there is a gaping stretch of time and an enormous amount of work ahead before you can see light at the end of the tunnel. How can you lead your teams and your communities through the next 18 months?