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Retrieve an article from the UMass Global Virtual Library, summarize it, and post your summary and comments on the Discussi

Retrieve an article from the UMass Global Virtual Library, summarize it, and post your summary and comments on the Discussi

 Retrieve an article from the UMass Global Virtual Library, summarize it, and post your summary and comments on the Discussion Board. 

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Making Sense of Crisis: Charismatic, Ideological, and Pragmatic Leadership in Response to COVID-19

Matthew P. Crayne University at Albany

Kelsey E. Medeiros University of Nebraska–Omaha

The incursion of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) reached global scale in 2020, requiring a response from leaders worldwide. Although the virus is a ubiquitous problem, world leaders have varied appreciably in their responses resulting in substantially different outcomes in terms of virus mitigation, population health, and economic stability. One explanation for this inconsistency is that leaders have taken differential approaches to making sense of the crisis that, in turn, have driven their approaches to decision making and communication. The present article elaborates on the role of leaders as sensemakers and explains how a leader’s sensemaking approach is a critical element in successful crisis management efforts. Through the charismatic, ideological, pragmatic (CIP) leadership model, a sensemaking-focused theory of leadership, it is explained how specific, relatively stable sensemaking approaches manifest and what actions leaders engaged in those styles are likely to take in times of crisis. These connections are then reinforced through case examples of 3 world leaders, framed through CIP, and demonstrate how their sensemaking approach has influenced their response to COVID-19. The article concludes with a discussion of the impacts that these differential approaches to COVID-19 may have on the global community, and recommendations for more explicit incorporation of sensemaking into our understanding of leadership.

Public Significance Statement This article provides insight into why leaders across the world have varied so significantly in their approach to and treatment of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Through a research-backed framework and 3 brief case studies, the article demonstrates how leaders can vary systematically in their interpretation of problems and that those differences set the stage for substantial disparity in the reaction to emerging crises.

Keywords: leadership, charisma, CIP, COVID-19

The emergence of the 2019–2020 novel coronavirus pan- demic (coronavirus disease 2019, COVID-19) has placed social, economic, and governance structures under signifi- cant pressure worldwide. At the forefront of this crisis are the national leaders and heads of state who have been

charged with the responsibility of devising a response to the pandemic as it unfolds. Although many of the typical chal- lenges these world leaders face vary as a product of their social or political circumstances, the COVID-19 pandemic presents an issue that is universally applicable. Sociopolit- ical differences among nations and cultures may influence the capacity of a leader’s response with respect to form and function; the crisis itself, however, transcends borders and places populations in jeopardy with little regard for demo- graphics. As such, it would be within reason to expect that the ubiquity of the COVID-19 threat would result in an ostensibly uniform response from world leaders. This has not, however, been the case. Rather, leaders have reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that vary dramatically, ranging from swift social and economic interventions (e.g., Kealey, 2020), to downplaying the virus’ severity and de- flecting responsibility (e.g., Phillips, 2020b), and even pur- porting that the virus is a “hoax” (e.g., Egan, 2020). These

X Matthew P. Crayne, School of Business, University at Albany; Kelsey E. Medeiros, College of Business Administration, University of Nebraska–Omaha.

Matthew P. Crayne served as lead for conceptualization, investigation, and project administration. Kelsey E. Medeiros served in a supporting role for conceptualization, investigation, and project administration. Matthew P. Crayne and Kelsey E. Medeiros contributed to writing the original draft equally. Matthew P. Crayne and Kelsey E. Medeiros contributed to the writing, review, and editing equally.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Matthew P. Crayne, School of Business, University at Albany, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12222. E-mail: [email protected]

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American Psychologist © 2020 American Psychological Association 2021, Vol. 76, No. 3, 462-474 ISSN: 0003-066X http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/amp0000715

This article was published Online First August 10, 2020.

462

reactions have left many perplexed by the differences in quantifiable outcomes across countries and communities that result from these distinct approaches, and have caused devastating realities such as mass mortality, skyrocketing unemployment rates, and economic collapse to become mainstay topics of conversation worldwide.

Central to this issue is a broader discussion of what role leaders play in times of crisis, and what aspects of leader- ship are associated with success. Academics and the popular press often conceptualize leadership from a trait or characteristics-based perspective, focusing on the question of what a leader “is” (see Zaccaro, 2007). In times of crisis or uncertainty this is particularly evident, as people look to the statements, decisions, and actions of various leaders and attempt to discern which set of characteristics is best for the addressing the problem at hand. Relatedly, much of the current theory and research suggest that leaders are most effective when they can display an outwardly charismatic or transformational style (see Dinh et al., 2014). These ap- proaches, although intuitive, belie the issue by inherently supposing that there is a “right” set of characteristics or actions that will predict leader effectiveness in managing both stable and crisis circumstances. Moreover, they do not account for the mechanisms underlying how such traits or leadership styles are expressed and, thus, provide an incom- plete perspective of the leadership process (van Knippen- berg & Sitkin, 2013). Specifically, such perspectives do not consider that much of what leaders do is invisible to others, composed of cognitive exercises in organizing and inter- preting complex information (Fleishman et al., 1991; Mint- zberg, 1975). Thus, an understanding of leader cognition is essential to a complete perspective on leadership (Mumford, Friedrich, Caughron, & Byrne, 2007).

With respect to COVID-19, individual differences in cog- nition may help explain the drastic variability observed in world leader reactions and the associated variability in public health and economic outcomes across countries. Al- though leader cognition itself is generally unobservable, it is made evident to others through a leader’s communications to and actions toward prospective followers. Before estab- lishing goals and motivating followers to action, essential elements of the leadership process (Bass, 2008), leaders must first develop a point of view with respect to a problem and communicate that perspective to others in a manner they will comprehend. This process, called sensemaking (Maitlis & Christianson, 2014), works to establish mutual understanding of a problem between leaders and followers that then allows for a cohesive and organized approach to problem solving. This is especially necessary during times of significant change or departure from norms, such as a developing crisis (Pearson & Clair, 1998), and when easily accessible and reliable information is scarce. The global response to COVID-19 is a salient demonstration of this issue. Because the majority of people possess no personal

expertise in pandemic response, they look to leaders to provide a perspective on the crisis that they can trust, organize around, and act upon. The gravity of the pandemic, evidenced by its global reach and significant costs to human life, further emphasizes the need that the general populace has for clarity from leadership.

Using the charismatic, ideological, and pragmatic (CIP) model of leadership (Mumford, 2006) as a framework, the present effort discusses the leader-as-sensemaker concept to introduce a leadership perspective that departs from more commonly considered models (Dinh et al., 2014), and to provide a framework for understanding the disparate re- sponse to COVID-19 from leaders around the globe. To demonstrate the utility of this perspective, a series of brief case studies on three current world leaders, each represent- ing one of the model’s sensemaking styles, are discussed. It is argued that pragmatic leaders may be best equipped for managing the first wave of the pandemic and, more broadly, that the variability in sensemaking, and subsequent out- comes, observed in response to the COVID-19 crisis under- scores the criticality of incorporating sensemaking style in our understanding and assessment of potential leaders.

Sensemaking, Leadership, and COVID-19

Sensemaking is broadly defined as the process by which individuals interpret cues within a changing environment and use that interpretation to explain what has occurred and to promote future action (see Maitlis & Christianson, 2014; Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005). In this way, sensemak- ing is an inherently backward-facing process, in which one collects information about a situation or event and attempts to develop an explanatory narrative (i.e., “What’s the story?”) that is then used as the basis for decisions and action (Weick et al., 2005).

Crises are prototypical of the ambiguous, high-impact events for which sensemaking is most needed (Pearson & Clair, 1998). Research has suggested that inadequate sen- semaking can exacerbate crisis conditions and lead to cat- astrophic outcomes. For example, akin to the present issue of COVID-19, Weick (2005) noted that challenges in sen- semaking distributed across multiple institutions were di- rectly related to the Centers for Disease Control’s initial misdiagnosis of the West Nile virus during its spread through New York City in the late 1990s. The errors made during this time and an inability to develop comprehensive understanding of the issue resulted, in Weick’s (2005) view, in the proliferation of a virus that eventually infected and caused harm to millions of Americans. The preponderance of evidence suggests that sensemaking is an essential ele- ment to successful navigation of crisis events (see Maitlis & Christianson, 2014 for a review), and that those who take ownership of that process have significant and direct influ- ence over the success of any crisis response.

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463SENSEMAKING IN COVID-19 RESPONSE

Although sensemaking is not always centralized and can be undertaken by all agents within an organization (see Maitlis, 2005), the process is most often driven through leadership (Corley & Gioia, 2004). Agency over problem interpretation and decision making most often lies with leaders (Corley & Gioia, 2004), and recognition of this outsized influence has led scholars to view sensemaking as an essential leadership competency and behavior (e.g., Shamir, 2007). Research further suggests that sensemaking is often restricted to leaders, and leaders who engage in sensemaking are often unchallenged in their interpretation of the issue at hand (Maitlis, 2005). The medium through which leaders communicate their view of an emergent chal- lenge to followers, termed “sensegiving” (Maitlis & Chris- tianson, 2014), can vary as an outcome of the problem’s nature and the leader’s distance from followers. With re- spect to COVID-19, many of the leaders addressing the pandemic are in positions of national or global political influence. Through public statements, press conferences, and interviews, these leaders provide a framework for the public to understand and interpret the crisis and to subse- quently motivate actions such as social distancing, wearing face masks, or seeking medical treatment. Although the importance of such communication has been recognized by scholars (e.g., Cowper, 2020), these efforts have primarily focused attention on the process of communicating and not the logic or interpretation of the situation that underpins the message. Moreover, there has been little discussion of how systematic differences in sensemaking between leaders may drive the form and substance of the messages that they convey and the actions that they take. Given the gravity of the consequences that are known to result from failed sen- semaking (e.g., Weick, 2005) and the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative to develop a perspec- tive on how and why leaders may differ in how they make sense of the current crisis.

The CIP Model

One promising lens through which to view leader sense- making and sensegiving is the CIP model of leadership (Mumford, 2006). The CIP model proposes three sensemaking-driven pathways to successful leadership in times of crisis—charismatic, ideological, and pragmatic leadership. Each pathway is associated with a fundamen- tally different mental model, or view of the world which, in turn, impacts how leaders interpret and respond to events in their environment (Lovelace, Neely, Allen, & Hunter, 2019). Unlike more traditional models of leadership (e.g., transformational leadership), CIP does not contend that one of these three sensemaking styles is superior to any other, nor does it suggest that there is a single pathway to effective leadership. Instead, each of the proposed pathways can lead to effective performance depending on the situation. This

assertion is informed by historiometric research (see Crayne & Hunter, 2018) on historically prominent leaders, as well as experimental laboratory-based studies. Across these methods, research (see Lovelace et al., 2019 for review) has found that CIP sensemaking styles are identifiable in out- standing leaders across time periods, geographies, and in- dustries. Moreover, the success of these individuals is not predicted by differences in sensemaking approach alone, but also by the ability of that approach to meet the needs of followers and the situation. However, the model does hold that meaningful differences in mental models exist between people (Hunter & Lovelace, 2020), and that those differ- ences can be used to anticipate their sensemaking approach and associated behaviors.

Although recent research has suggested that leaders may possess a sensemaking profile which incorporates various elements of each approach in consort (e.g., Griffith & Me- deiros, 2020; Hunter & Lovelace, 2020; Lovelace et al., 2019), the CIP model has historically held that leaders align to a single predominant pathway (Mumford, 2006). This may be particularly likely among high-powered or upper- echelon leaders who have the influence and status to be authentic in their sensemaking. This is compared with lead- ers of lower status that may be inclined to adjust their approach away from their natural proclivities to appeal to a broader audience (Lovelace et al., 2019). Thus, it would be expected that world leaders responsible for addressing COVID-19 would be likely to align to a more consistent and stable sensemaking pathway.

These pathways are defined by differences in cognitive, interpretive, and communicative strategies that manifest together as an expression of an individual’s perspective of a topic or problem. Research by Hunter and colleagues (2011) found that a leader’s CIP alignment could be decomposed to specific tendencies within nine subdimensions. Of these, four are considered to be the most prominent and are most evident from the directly observable communications and behaviors of leaders: (a) use of emotions, the emotional or logical appeals used to convey information to followers; (b) time-frame orientation, the temporal focus with which lead- ers select and organize key causes and goals; (c) outcomes sought, the type of goals pursued; and (d) locus of causa- tion, one’s beliefs regarding the causes of a situation. In the case of COVID-19, differences along these dimensions likely explain the variability in response that has been observed between world leaders and can be readily ob- served when addressing the crisis publicly such as inter- views, speeches, town-hall meetings, and official state- ments.

The following sections provide a more detailed discussion of these four underlying sensemaking elements and their manifestation in charismatic, ideological, and pragmatic styles as well as an analysis of the COVID-19 response of three world leaders aligned to these approaches: Justin

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464 CRAYNE AND MEDEIROS

Trudeau, Jair Bolsonaro, and Angela Merkel. Additionally, Table 1 provides concrete examples of how these charis- matic, ideological, and pragmatic leaders differ across the four key dimensions of the CIP theory.1

Charismatic Leaders

A charismatic sensemaking approach is largely character- ized by a focus on positive emotions framed through a vision for the future (Griffith, Connelly, Thiel, & Johnson, 2015). As a result of this overt future orientation, charis- matic leaders typically frame problems around the pursuit of multiple, broad goals focused on hope and inspiring others (Mumford, 2006). In addition to the breadth of their goals, charismatic leaders pursue breadth in their follower base and endeavor to generate influence by building large coali- tions. Thus, the central premise of charismatic sensemaking is a philosophy of inclusivity; leaders structure a vision of the future for mass appeal so that the collective can create and enforce its own group identity and norms (Lovelace et al., 2019). A prototypical example of such framing is the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic I Have a Dream speech, in which he extols the idea of a future in which his children “. . . will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” (Yale Law School, 2008).

Furthermore, charismatic leaders would be expected to advocate for creative and potentially controversial solu- tions, reflecting a propensity for breaking away from the status quo (Conger & Kanugo, 1998). Their characteristi- cally hopeful and change-focused approach inspires their followers, which can help charismatic leaders enact their vision effectively. However, as seen in historical examples such as Adolf Hitler, these same characteristics can also make followers more susceptible to negative influence. In these ways the charismatic leaders described in the CIP model are similar to more classical descriptions of charis- matic or transformational leadership (see Banks et al., 2017). However, the CIP model’s specific attention to sen- semaking that precedes behavior, rather than behaviors themselves, distinguishes between the two perspectives de- spite their similarities (see Lovelace et al., 2019).

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Trudeau’s charismatic approach to leadership can be readily observed across both of his campaigns beginning with his focus on making “real change” in the 2015 election (BBC, 2019). After a decisive victory, Trudeau reinforced his broad, progressive perspective stating, “This is what a positive, hopeful, a hopeful vision, and a platform and a team together can make happen . . . Canadians from all across this great country sent a clear message tonight, it’s time for a change in this country, my friends, a real change”

(Murphy & Woolfe, 2015). Such statements demonstrate Trudeau’s future orientation, affectively positive and inclu- sive approach to messaging, and vision constructed around a perceived need for change. He further reinforced the notion that his leadership would be transformative for Can- ada in stating, “We beat fear with hope, we beat cynicism with hard work. Most of all we defeated the idea that Canadians should be satisfied with less.” (Andrusewicz, 2015). Herein, Trudeau expressed a belief that his constit- uents were equally responsible for his personal success and would be instrumental in the accomplishment of future goals. Taken together, a reliance on positive framing, will- ingness to build coalitions, acknowledgment of the need for others, and broad agenda for change indicate a charismatic approach to sensemaking and sensegiving (Lovelace et al., 2019).

Trudeau’s largely charismatic approach has been con- sistent throughout his two terms as Prime Minister and has been particularly evident in his approach to Canada’s COVID-19 response. Foremost, his communications to the public have been definitively optimistic and centered on a future beyond the pandemic. For example, in his April 22 press conference Trudeau proclaimed, “On the other side of this, when the economy comes roaring back, you will define our path forward, a path towards a better, more equal society. That’s what we’re doing together” (Trudeau, 2020c). In what could have been a chance to express negative emotions in his March 23 press confer- ence, Trudeau continued to strike a positive tone as he thanked those working through the difficult conditions stating, “No matter who you are, if you’re doing your part, I want to say thank you. You are saving lives. And when it gets hard, know that your government is right there with you.” In addition to general hopefulness, Trudeau’s messages also reinforce that his vision for Canada’s future includes goals beyond defeating COVID-19 and that these objectives are not mutually exclusive. In the previously referenced speech, which was delivered on Earth Day, Trudeau alluded to both his call for a “better, more equal society” as well as envi- ronmental sustainability goals stating, “Although, our immediate focus is on the fight against COVID-19 we will always do our part to build a brighter future for tomorrow” (Trudeau, 2020a). His April 30th press con- ference similarly focused on a range of broad objectives, including protecting the most vulnerable, restarting the economy, and accessing protective equipment for front- line workers (Trudeau, 2020a). Moreover, Trudeau rein- forced a philosophy of community and inclusion in com- bating the virus stating, “Earlier this month . . . I said the

1 The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their suggestion that this table be included to facilitate the discussion of CIP sensemaking differences.

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465SENSEMAKING IN COVID-19 RESPONSE

path ahead was up to us. And the same holds true today . . . It’s all up to all of us” (Trudeau, 2020b). Such statements emphasize that Trudeau views people as the primary agents of crisis resolution and believes that the broader objectives of Canadian progress are embedded in the successful development of coalitions.

Despite the consistently encouraging messages deliv- ered to his constituents, Trudeau’s handling of the pan- demic has been mixed. At the time of writing, Canada has managed to keep the number of COVID-19 cases low relative to other countries of its size, largely attributable to Trudeau’s acknowledgment of the pandemic’s severity and willingness to include a team of health experts in the process (Forster, 2020). Recognizing the scale of the challenge and his efforts to quell it, Trudeau has been praised in some circles and acknowledged for his efforts (e.g., Hepburn, 2020). However, the response has also been met with criticism, particularly around his approach to early detection (Gilmore, 2020) and testing capacities in the country’s most affected areas (Russell, 2020). Critics maintain that despite confident language, Trudeau’s actions suggested costly unpreparedness. To

that end, he has further been criticized for lacking trans- parency regarding the costs of his government’s response to COVID-19 (Scoffield, 2020). Such critiques indicate that Trudeau is at constant risk of being viewed as a leader who lacks substance in his convictions and does not take effective action on the sweeping vision he pro- motes. This is accordant with previous appraisals of Trudeau’s leadership that have found him to be inconsis- tent and inauthentic to his public-facing persona (e.g., Kassam, 2019). As such, it is possible that Trudeau’s messaging lacks some efficacy without significant and obvious enforcement of policy, particularly among those who do not closely align themselves to his vision. This was made apparent in a late March public address, where Trudeau’s tone and demeanor notably changed in re- sponse to wide-spread reporting that Canadians were ignoring his calls for social distancing and self-isolation (Cecco, 2020). Taking these criticisms into account, at present Canada has largely flattened its COVID-19 curve, suggesting that Trudeau’s approach to managing the pan- demic may be working despite noted challenges (Treble, 2020).

Table 1 CIP Summary and Examples From Cases

Dimension Charismatic (T

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