Leadership in a Time of Crisis

The first case of coronavirus in the U.S. was confirmed on January 20, 2020. In less than two months, the virus was declared a pandemic and led to the shuttering of schools, businesses, libraries and other gathering spaces throughout the country and the world. March Madness unfortunately has taken on a completely different meaning.

During times of crisis, Americans look to the chief executive for leadership and guidance, to be a source of strength amid chaos and uncertainty. Making tough calls while assuring the public that everything is going to be ok. I think you know where this is going…How does a college president execute that type of responsibility – to lead an institution through an unprecedented crisis, one without a playbook or a rulebook?

Dr. Scott Cowen, president emeritus of Tulane University and faculty member of the AGB Institute for Leadership & Governance, knows a thing or two about leading an institution through an unprecedented crisis. He was president of Tulane when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, forcing the university to close for an entire semester. Dr. Cowen is renowned for his inspirational leadership during and after the hurricane, and he graciously shared some insights in the article “How to Lead in a Crisis” in the Chronicle of Higher Education (a subscription is required to read the article).

We are fortunate that, although every crisis is different, we can learn so much from the experiences of those who came before us. And we at the Institute will continue to share resources and information to help future institution presidents prepare for the unforeseeable.

By Dr. Jason Lane, Interim Dean, School of Education, University at Albany (SUNY); Director, AGB Institute for Leadership & Governance.

Posted on 03.25.2020