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COVID-19: Rediscovering the fundamentals of great leadership

This is the fourth in a series of articles on Maximising the Leadership Lessons from COVID-19, brought to you by Symphonia for South Africa’s flagship programme, Partners for Possibility


An invisible enemy is sowing fear, anger and anxiety across the globe and changing the world as we know it. Everything appears before us to teach us something, What on earth could the lessons from this virus be?

It turns out that the COVID-19 pandemic was what it would take for people to truly understand the need for a kinder and more compassionate world; a world where we would embrace and leverage our interdependence as a global community. It makes sense really for it is often in the darkest moments that the warrior within each one of us emerges to reclaim that which we have lost.

Our need for community

As a community builder and social activist, I help people understand the power of connection. Bringing people together for the common good is a challenging feat under normal circumstances. This bewilders me as I believe I shouldn’t have to “teach” this. Is it not in our nature, as human beings, to care for each other and the world in which we live? Is it not in our nature to come together in groups and be in community? But this is a struggle in our fast-paced world.

Yet now that we find ourselves grappling with a crisis that is keeping us apart, all we want to do is be together in some form of community. Hence the endless Zoom calls and myriad WhatsApp chats. We are starting to realise our deep need for one another. What a gift this is!

Lessons in leadership

In my quest to use this crisis as an opportunity to reflect on my own leadership, I ask myself: How do I use this knowledge to “armour up” as a leader for what is surely to come? How can I use COVID-19 to make me a better leader?

What I call the Three C’s of Leadership immediately spring to mind: connection, compassion and courage. These three values, or behaviours if you like, must surely emerge as hallmarks of leaders who have successfully navigated the virus and lockdown.

The following questions allow me to introspect on these three key aspects of leadership. I hope they are useful for you too:

  • • How do I access the courage to lead more holistically, with open head, heart and hands?
  • • What do I have to work on consciously to honour the values of connection and compassion for all living things and the planet and to live and lead with greater courage?
  • • How do I cultivate a greater attitude of gratitude for all I have in my life and then use this to serve others?
  • • How do I bring all the emotions of a connected and compassionate global community into every space I am in and embody them in the essence of my being?

These questions will help to guide me in redefining the path that lies ahead. I must grapple with them over the days, weeks and even months to come. For it will be in the exploring of these ideas that intention will rise, and new actionable behaviours will emerge. The journey is the destination.

I feel optimistic that this too shall pass. The challenge is, how do I ensure that these important learnings don’t?

 I simply must use the gift of this renewed awareness to improve my role as a leader.

Rama Naidu is the founder of 6degreeshift, an organisation specialising in transformational personal leadership, culture change and community building and the reshaping of dysfunctional teams. He also served on the board of Symphonia for South Africa until February 2020.

Symphonia for South Africa’s flagship programme, Partners for Possibility, is committed to social change through the leadership development of school principals and business leaders in South Africa. For more information visit




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