Corona Containment: Management and Leadership Issue

-Commander VK Jaitly

The current corona pandemic across the world has thrown gigantic challenge to the humanity. It is a challenge not only to the medical profession but also to the management experts, technical wizards and even the political leadership in respective countries. There is a marked difference in which this pandemic is being handled in different parts of the world.

if you Look at European countries and the United States of America, they are all way ahead of India as for as medical facilities are concerned. They are also highly advanced in terms of management expertise, technical know how and in fact you name a resource they have much more than a country like India. Further, their population is much less and also their literacy levels are much higher. The civic sense of the citizens in these countries is also considered at a level that is considered much higher than their Asian or African counterparts. They are also rich countries with much higher GDP. But still, their handling of Corona has been far from satisfactory. The number of casualties in the countries like united States of America, Spain, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Germany and many more speak a lot about their mishandling of this grave challenge to the humanity.

All these countries, despite their abundance of resources and medical facilities failed to manage the crisis. They were caught off guard. They reacted too late and that too at a slow pace. They ignored the writing on the wall. Majority of them were confident that Wuhan will not happen to them. It seems that their leadership was confused for quite sometime. And some of them are confused till today having lost thousands of lives to the tiny monster virus Covid-19. To me it seems they lack confidence, they lack conviction and they lack the concern for their people. There is no dearth of medical, technical and managerial expertise in these countries. But I think it is a failure of their leadership.

On the other hand, performance of India has been extremely well. It has been applauded all over the world. Our leadership took timely action. We Imposed lockdown all over the country well in time. India had only one testing lab in the month of January. By 26 April, we have more than 300 testing labs all over India. We were the first country to evacuate our 700 + students from Wuhan, the epicenter of Covid-19. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji has emerged as the consensus global leader of the world in its fight against the Corona virus.

I think Indian PM demonstrated Leadership@Lightning Speed. Janata curfew, followed by complete lock down paid the dividends. Simultaneously, ramping up of production of indigenous testing kits, masks, sanitizers, PPEs etc on a war footing enabled to cope up with the exponential increase of demand. Imports of these essential items were also cleared at a fast pace to bridge the gap between indigenous production and the demand.

Mr Modi, like a true leader kept on communicating with the masses. He was the first one to plead for collaboration at SAARC level and then at G20 level. I think his priorities were very clear. His statement “Jaan hai toh Jahaan hai” was very apt; meaning “Life is Most Important. If you are alive, only then the world is there for you.”

It is the complete lock down since 25th March, 2020 that kept the Corona cases least in the world despite a spike of cases by Tabligi Jamaat followers and their non cooperation in containing the pandemic. There are anti social and anti establishment people everywhere. Even in US, there are a large sections of the society questioning the logic of lock down despite the maximum number of deaths in the world. The problems in India were no way less. Sustenance of the daily wage earners was the biggest problem. Many of them came on the roads to go back to their villages despite non availability of buses and trains. But Indian people have always demonstrated their love for the country during such calamities. Thousands of community kitchens came up all over India overnight.

Those who had the provisions to cook at home were provided dry ration kits. Barring one or two states, all state governments also have done an excellent job of fighting the Chinese Corona virus.

Our police force have demonstrated a professional approach during this calamity. Their determination and dedication in discharging their duties has to be praised. They distributed food also to the hungry, medicines to the sick and ensured supply of essential commodities continued. Some places, they sang songs in streets to spread awareness.

And wielded their batons too judiciously for the mischief mongers. Do you realise, that in the post independence history of India, it is the first time that there is a calamity of such great magnitude and still Indian Army was not called for maintaing law and order, as the police force performed in a professional manner.

The doctors, medical staff and our safai karamcharis in government hospitals have always faced criticism. But their devotion to their duty during such difficult times deserves all the applause. They deserve salute from the Indian masses. And the Indian public was in the forefront when they clapped, rang bells or the thalis from their balconies all over India to express their gratitude for all these Corona Fighters. They also lit candles one evening to dispel darkness symbolising the victory of light over darkness.

As a proud Indian, I feel we worked like a well oiled machinery. It has been like a team work. Everyone pitched in, the way he/she could. Some came up with improved designs of ventilators and some designed highly cost effective Corona Testing kits. Masks were produced in crores. PPE kit manufacturing units also came up overnight. Keeping sufficient reserves of HCQ and other medicines for India, the balance was exported world over earning good will globally as well as the foreign exchange during the worst lull period for the economy. I feel, India will prove to be a clear winner against our fight against Corona when compared with other developed countries of the world.

The current Corona calamity handling calls for the VUCA Leadership qualities. I am sure many of you must have heard this term that was coined by the US Army War College in late 1990s to describe the war scenario in which military operations have to be executed.

The term has been subsequently used in management philosophy too to describe the current environment. V stand for Volatile, U for Uncertain, C for Complex and A stands for Ambiguous. So a VUCA leader is one who is able to sail smoothly even through rough seas with his competence, confidence, conviction and commitment. The current Corona pandemic perfectly fits into the definition of VUCA environment.

So remember even if you have plenty of resources but poor management and leadership, you are bound to suffer. On the other hand, if you have limited resources but highly experienced and dedicated management led by a great leader who is able to inspire, energise and empower his teams, you are bound to succeed.