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3 Leadership Lessons From The Coronavirus Pandemic

From cutting through the noise to keeping an open mind, here’s what students and faculty at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business learned about leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic

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By  Bethany Garner

Thu Aug 26 2021

BusinessBecause
More than a year of uncertainty has brought about new workplace challenges, from navigating remote management to avoiding employee burnout. So what does it take to lead a successful team in the new world of work?

BusinessBecause reached out to students and faculty from Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business to find out what leadership lessons they’ve taken from the pandemic.


1. Keep an open mind

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the need for open-minded leadership into sharp relief. That’s according to Mélanie Biron (right), Executive MBA (EMBA) student at John Molson.

Mélanie is an entrepreneur whose start-up coaching service, AURA XP, helps other business owners grow and develop their venture. When she first set up the company, Mélanie realized there were certain gaps in her knowledge in areas like accounting and finance, so she decided to add a business degree to her résumé.

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The John Molson EMBA allowed Mélanie to continue working as she studied, and she was drawn to the program’s diverse cohort and thorough curriculum.

“I learned best practices for each department,” says Mélanie. “It’s about seeing businesses holistically.” 

Taking this holistic overview can help leaders achieve the flexibility that Mélanie thinks is essential to management success post-COVID.

“The program emphasized what I thought in the past—that to be a great leader, you need to be flexible and open-minded,” she reflects.

Mélanie took this approach straight into her startup consultancy, helping entrepreneurs weather the impact of the pandemic. In one case, she helped an entrepreneur whose company made water refill stations pivot to creating hand washing stations that could curb COVID transmission while reducing the need for disposable hand sanitizer bottles. 

“Today, companies that succeed the most are not too rigid—they can adapt rapidly,” says Mélanie.


2. Revisit past learnings

Although the past year has been a time of unprecedented change, business leaders should recognize that there are relevant takeaways from past research. 

“Research on remote work has been going on since long before the pandemic,” says Linda Dyer, director of the Master of Science in Management program and professor of management at John Molson.

“But now the context has changed and there’s more uncertainty. I think that processes we studied before need to be revisited.” 

In particular, past research in business communication could prove fruitful. One simple technique Linda has seen work well in a remote context is establishing a check-in at the start of meetings. During these check-ins, team members can share how they are on a general level, which Linda says is surprisingly freeing. 

“I think it’s very important to go back to the old literature, to see what we know about certain workplace processes, and how they can be applied in a post-COVID world,” she explains.

Business schools are well-placed to educate leaders through challenging times, Linda adds.

“Schools have one foot in academia, and one in the world of practice. A year or two in the academic environment is useful both for a conceptual understanding of how leadership and management works, and to acquire practical skills,” she concludes.


3. Cut through the noise

Being able to quickly get to the root of a problem is one of the most important skills leaders can have during a period of uncertainty, believes Bethea Clarke (right), current MBA student at John Molson. 

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Before coming to the program, Bethea worked in operations for an international tourism company. When coronavirus indefinitely shut down the sector in March 2020, her company was forced to make significant layoffs. Rather than looking for a new job straight away, Bethea decided to take a step back and expand her knowledge of the business world through an MBA.

Having enjoyed her undergraduate degree at Concordia, John Molson was an obvious choice.

“I also really liked how the school pushed experiential learning,” she adds. “I’m a person who prefers to learn by doing.” 

During the program, these experiences allowed her to hone crucial leadership skills. 

One highlight was getting involved with the John Molson MBA International Case Competition team. In the second year of the program, Bethea will be competing on behalf of the school, as well as chairing its case competition committee. 

As she practiced cracking cases Bethea learned to quickly get to the root of business problems.

“It’s about cutting through the noise to find the actual problem versus looking at the symptoms,” she explains. 

Although this ability is always useful, Bethea thinks it could prove essential in times of rapid change and uncertainty, like the pandemic.

“I don’t think the pandemic has changed the traits it takes to be a good leader, but it has brought them into clearer focus,” she says.

Student Reviews

Concordia University: John Molson School of Business

Anthony

Verified

25/11/2023

On Campus

Educational advancement

My time at Concordia College has been set apart by huge self-awareness. The steady instructors and staff have assisted me with fostering my abilities and information. The college offers a scope of administrations and extracurricular exercises, giving various open doors to understudies to reach out. In general, my involvement with Concordia has been positive and improving.

Student

Verified

16/11/2023

On Campus

My growth

"My time at Concordia University has been marked by significant personal growth. The supportive teachers and staff have helped me to develop my skills and knowledge. The university offers a range of services and extracurricular activities, providing numerous opportunities for students to get involved. Overall, my experience at Concordia has been positive and enriching.

Ashley

Verified

31/10/2023

On Campus

Communications and Culture Studies

I am currently enrolled in my first year in the Communication and Culture studies program. I have met so many incredible people and have already acquired skills that I will serve me in my professional career. The courses are dynamic, engaging and intellectually stimulating. I am happy to be a student at this university and look forward to the next 2 years here!

Student

Verified

11/09/2023

On Campus

Significant advancements

Having attended Concordia University, I can confidently state that I have seen significant advancements in my skills. The faculty and staff demonstrate great thoughtfulness and provide effective support. Additionally, the university offers an abundance of student clubs and services.

Arman

Verified

11/09/2023

On Campus

Master of Quality Systems Engineering

I completed my Master's in Quality Systems Engineering at Concordia University, where I gained a comprehensive understanding of quality management principles and methodologies. The program provided a mix of theoretical knowledge and practical applications, including coursework in statistical process control, Six Sigma, and Lean principles. I engaged in hands-on projects addressing real-world quality challenges, collaborated with experienced faculty, and conducted independent research. This experience has equipped me with the skills and expertise needed to contribute effectively to organizations seeking to enhance their quality control processes and achieve operational excellence.

Amber Lee

Verified

6/09/2023

On Campus

Awesome

The Communication program at Concordia University will prepare you for the future. The program is divided in two blocks: one more theoretical, from which you learn the concept of communications through the perspective of philosophy, history and social studies; another completely hands-on in which you learn how to produce media choosing from three streams; sound, moving images, intermedia. What I love about the communication program at Concordia is that the teachers are clever, up to date, and exited about putting the future in the hands of students. Not only there is so much to learn in the communication program, but there are also so many opportunities!

Student

Verified

3/09/2023

On Campus

Concordia is best

Concordia university is one of the top listed universities not just in Canada but worldwide. The most amazing thing about this university is it is a standalone English speaking university in Montreal that allows non francophone students to enrol and study efficiently. My program is beautifully designed with access to high quality classrooms and faculty members that are available every time to attend your queries. The huge campus of the University including the library allows students to indulge in group work and research programs. The administration staff is super supportive and polite in their conversations. I have had the most amazing experience studying at Concordia so far.

Student

Verified

5/07/2023

On Campus

Entrepreneurship and Marketing

I had the privilege of being a part of Ryerson University's Entrepreneurship and Marketing program, and it was an outstanding experience. The program's curriculum was well-designed, providing a perfect balance of theoretical knowledge and hands-on practical application. The faculty members were highly knowledgeable and supportive, creating an engaging learning environment. The program's emphasis on industry connections and experiential learning opened doors to valuable internships and co-op opportunities. The resources and facilities dedicated to the program were top-notch, allowing me to explore my passion and excel in my studies. I am grateful for the real-world skills and industry connections I gained through the program. Ryerson University's Entrepreneurship and Marketing truly prepared me for a successful career in the business world. I highly recommend this program to anyone looking for a transformative educational experience.

Student

Verified

25/06/2023

Blended

Integrated Student Life

Concordia University has done a fantastic job at providing on-campus activities and workshops for students to feel connected and less lonely in stressful times. My program, Human Relations highlights this perfectly as a human relations student to be able to see the effects these workshops have on our beings and our mental and physical health as well. The student Life at Concordia has allowed our school to feel more like a community than a school.

Dami

Verified

6/03/2024

On Campus

Study review

As a graduate student in the doctoral program in chemical engineering at Concordia University, I would rate the program as highly commendable. Although, the academic experience has been rigorous, challenging, and intellectually stimulating, providing a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of chemical engineering principles. However, my ongoing program has been equally rewarding and has equipped me with the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career in academia and industry.

Student

Verified

7/03/2024

On Campus

Amazing

In general, I love my university. It's a true representation of diversity, with students from all around the world. The system is incredibly organized, with everything functioning seamlessly, from the structure to the services.