Leadership in crisis: Dr. Kesete Admasu in conversation with the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program

Dr. Kesete Admasu, CEO of Big Win Philanthropy and former Minister of Health in Ethiopia, recently discussed the key factors for effective leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic in an interview with the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program.

As part of the program’s ‘Leadership in crisis’ series, Dr. Kesete discussed how leaders can minimize the negative health, human development and economic impact of COVID-19 on their populations. He highlighted the importance of establishing goals, cross-governmental coordination, and clear public communication for mounting an effective response.

Speaking on the need for a clear, holistic approach in tackling COVID-19, Dr. Kesete said:

“In my opinion, it is really important to make sure that we have clear goals, which are to slow and stop the transmission of COVID-19, to prepare health systems as much as possible to provide optimal care to those who need it, and then to minimize the economic impact.

“It is clear that economic recession in our part of the world kills children, it kills people – so it is a false dichotomy to make choices between public health and economic performance as they are integrated, and both lead to loss of human life.”

During the interview, Dr. Kesete stressed the need for collaboration and highlighted the key elements of successful cross-governmental coordination:

“It’s very important to make sure there is a national coordination mechanism chaired by the head of government and to ensure that there is a regular review of progress and preparedness. The second important piece, which really ensures cross-government collaboration, is to have one overall government response plan.

This is easier to say than it is to get it done. It is really important to make sure that governments have a coherent national response plan that looks at the different strands of intervention and actions that need to be taken. This will also ensure that there is alignment and harmonization of the various actions.”

Reflecting on the way forward, Dr. Kesete highlighted the importance of simple, clear communication during the pandemic:

“The third important thing is to really simplify interventions in a manner that can easily be understood by anyone. We are talking about a health crisis with COVID-19, some of the things that need to be done – such as isolation, contact tracing, surveillance systems – this has to be communicated in a language that is easily understandable by the community and the political actors involved.”

Watch the full interview with Dr. Kesete below and learn more about Big Win’s actions on COVID-19 here.