Rethinking Leadership in a Post-Pandemic Landscape

Roseanne JaneBlog, Lead Better

TL;DR:

  • Rethinking leadership in a post-pandemic landscape means schools should carefully consider the qualifications of future leaders.
  • It is important to be flexible and adaptable when considering schedules for the upcoming year.
  • Establish an ongoing dialogue to empower staff.
  • Develop plans for mental health support to be proactive in the upcoming year.

The United States has finally reached a point at which a functional end to the pandemic is in sight. The transition to warmer seasons, restrictions and precautions aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, and most of all a number of thoroughly effective vaccines have worked together to get us to this point.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean COVID-19 will go away. But we are approaching what an infectious-disease expert at UC San Francisco described in an article at The Atlantic as an “end to the emergency portion of the pandemic.” This is a point at which the virus will still be among us, but it will be less severe than the seasonal flu, and life can for the most part go back to normal.

Empowered staff are typically happier, and open communication will yield more effective strategies. This is all true in general, but will be even more so in a post-pandemic education landscape. - Roseanne Jane Click To Tweet

Naturally, this will be a very important development for schools at all levels. However, it also raises some interesting questions about what might change in education. Those questions cover a lot of different areas, but the one we’re exploring here is how schools and school systems might rethink leadership in a post-pandemic landscape.

Rethinking Leadership Post-Pandemic: Renewed Focus on Qualified Administrators

One thing that’s become clear over the last several months is that there are issues with basic leadership and structure in organizations of all kinds. While it did not focus on educational leadership specifically, a recent Business Insider write-up on burnout among leaders painted a discouraging picture. The prevailing notion was that many people in leadership roles don’t feel they’ve performed well during the pandemic—and most have been exhausted by trying.

These problems exist in schools and school systems as well. One of the most fundamental solutions is likely to be a renewed focus on the hiring of qualified administrators. As anyone who has worked in education is all too aware, many in administrative and leadership positions have teaching experience, but not necessarily education in any sort of oversight, management, or business administration.

The good news is that these are actually fields of study that have been attracting more aspiring professionals in recent years, in part because they are accessible via online degree programs. This enables people who are through with school and working to pursue higher qualifications with relative ease, and some of those people will be good fits for bringing greater organization into schools post-COVID-19.

Maryville University’s online business administration degree overview counts “operations manager” as a key professional role for people in this field—a role in which they “create the strategies that inform and guide other departments within their organizations.”

Because so many leaders have struggled or burned out in the course of the pandemic, we may see some school and school systems exploring options like in-house administrators who can help to bring strategy and order to more specific post-pandemic adjustments. They can effectively coordinate the “rethinking” of leadership.

Rethinking Leadership Post-Pandemic: Strategies for Altered Schedules

One more day-to-day adjustment that will have to be made by many schools, if not most, is the development of strategies for altered schedules. What we all want to see—and what will likely be best for students—is a full return to ordinary education as we know it. But at least in the short term, this is an unrealistic hope.

Among the things we’ll see as we ease out of the pandemic are staggered reopening of schools, altered schedules, part-time remote learning, and different comfort levels among parents, teachers, and students regarding the return to in-person education. A school in one county may be slower to open than a counterpart in another. Some parents may hold their children out of classrooms for a month or two extra. Schools that have lost teachers may still rely on internet-based lessons so as to reach more students with fewer educators.

All of these potential difficulties call for flexibility and thorough planning. Thus, part of leadership following the pandemic will likely revolve around a new focus on (attendance-related) scheduling and adaptability.

Rethinking Leadership Post-Pandemic: Empowering Staff

The post Empowering Staff in the Decision-Making Process essentially spoke to the idea of school administrators creating more openness and transparency with teachers and staff. This doesn’t simply mean alerting them to changes, but rather establishing an ongoing dialogue—listening to their needs, considering their challenges, welcoming their feedback, and consulting back and forth.

Empowered staff are typically happier, and open communication will yield more effective strategies. This is all true in general, but will be even more so in a post-pandemic education landscape.

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Rethinking Leadership Post-Pandemic: Developing Plans for Mental Health Support

In a recent USA Today piece on mental health effects of the coronavirus, a number of examples were given of teachers who have struggled profoundly with the challenges they’ve faced in the past year. The teachers cited talk about trying to act like they’re handling things better than they are, or “powering through” for the sake of the job. But the truth is clear: The pandemic has strained all of our mental wellness, and teachers are often unable to address this problem (which of course only makes it worse).

Unfortunately, similar issues with students are also occurring. Children are not meant to be isolated, to have their routines radically upended, or to learn and develop entirely through computer screens. In addition to being less than ideal for education, these problems are virtually certain to lead to lasting mental health consequences.

Perhaps the single most important adjustment to leadership in education following the pandemic, then, will be the consideration of these mental health issues. People in positions of leadership in schools and school systems need to be patient and prepared in this regard.

None of these are easy adjustments, and they won’t be made overnight. However, by focusing on administrative leadership quality, working with staff, and preparing for unpredictable schedules and mental health difficulties, our schools can put themselves in relatively strong positions to handle the transition back from the pandemic.


About Roseanne Jane

Roseanne Jane is a mental health advocate and freelance writer. When she’s not working on a new piece, you’ll find her working on her baking skills.