• Rich Overmoyer

4 Practices for Civic Leadership in the Age of COVID-19



Back in 2017, I posted about my observations regarding four common skills that Civic Leaders exhibit. After 5-months of a global pandemic, I thought it was a good time to return to and expand upon the list of skills that I see differentiating leaders making an impact. Those 4 skills (Listen, Research, Create, Act) skills remain essential, but to take them a step further, these practices will set you up for success in these unprecedented times:


Show Empathy

Simply put, empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Civic leaders need to have the ability to understand the feelings and experiences of an incredible diversity of stakeholders. They need to exercise empathy at times when their personal lives and organizational dynamics may be under unprecedented stress. Civic leaders who practice empathy create pathways to respond to immediate community needs while driving community-focused, long-term economic recovery.


Assess, Act, Repeat

The gut punch that COVID-19 inflicted on communities has had a reverberating effect. The immediate wave of trauma across communities from lost lives, lost jobs, and lost businesses shocked many into a trench of inaction. Thriving leaders swiftly assembled the data needed to focus on recovery. Having a base understanding of the scale and breadth of impact COVID has had on a community makes implementing recovery strategies more effective. And finally, assessing those strategies along the way will create an opportunity for continuous improvement.


Be Realistic

It’s tempting to sugarcoat issues to maintain community confidence when you’re hesitant to present impact scenarios that could sprint out into worst-case scenarios. Successful leaders are balancing a sense of realism with articulating a clear response to the worst case. They recognize that a health-driven economic crisis at the scale we have seen is unprecedented, and the experiences from past recessions will not repeat. They take a ‘brace for impact’ approach and are developing the plans to respond as opportunities present.


Convene Good People

There is strength in numbers as we face this crisis head on. It is essential to convene stakeholders to work together in recovery and to ensure that new and diverse voices are represented so that the recovery solutions are working towards more equitable development. This crisis impacts all of our systems - health, education, childcare, business, economic development, food, transportation, arts and entertainment, and beyond. Understanding the interconnection and planning for the recuperation of all systems is the only way to ensure a balanced recovery.


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