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Expert Insights on Leadership, Economic Outlook Amid COVID-19

The Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC) held its first webinar on April 16th to discuss different viewpoints on how leaders can effectively operate during the coronavirus and prepare for its long-term effects. 

The event was moderated by SCRC Executive Director Rob Handfield and featured two panelists, Jason Schenker and Gene Klann, who offered expert insights on leadership and the economy in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Handfield began the event by theorizing that despite implicit assumptions in the press that recent supply-chain related economic setbacks are due to corporate naivety, the effects are rather a “function of events that are part of the natural evolution of supply chains.”

“If this is the case … then organizations need to be much more aware of what the future will look like and how to plan ahead — not just for the next week, but what the world will look like in a post-COVID world,” he said.

Klann, President of Disciplines of Leadership, LLC and author of “Crisis Leadership,” discussed actions leaders should take before, during and after difficult situations like the COVID-19 crisis to mitigate negative effects. 

He emphasized that leaders should concentrate on three important areas: communication, clarity of vision and values, and caring relationships.

By engaging in behaviors that support these areas, Klann said leaders can build loyalty and eliminate what he said is one of the biggest problems leaders face amid highly-disruptive situations. 

“In a crisis, people have an emotional need to know what’s going on,” he said.

If nothing is communicated to them, Klann said people will “make stuff up,” — or “‘MSU’ it,” as he calls it. “… And what they make up is generally worse than reality.”

[marketing-quote color=’blue’ quotes=’true’ align=’right’ source=’Gene Klann, author of “Crisis Leadership”‘]Communication is the grease and oil that lubricates an organization … Without effective communication, there is no effective leadership.[/marketing-quote]

As far as what is being communicated goes, Klann said leaders should ensure their team that when the crisis is over, they will still have a workforce, customers, and key business relationships, like suppliers.

The Economy

Schenker, President of Prestige Economics and author of “The Future After COVID,” offered perspectives on the potential long-term changes, challenges, and opportunities the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have on the economic landscape.

“Right now, the message that young people are getting from the government is that there are three kinds of jobs,” he said.

Those three categories are as follows, according to Schenker:

  1. You have an essential job; without your job, the world doesn’t work.
  2. You have a ‘remote knowledge’ job; you have a job you can do remotely … your job “exists.”
  3. You are in non-essential work … the government has essentially said, “you don’t exist.”

The last of these three groups, which includes barbers, bartenders, entertainment planners and other professions that require in-person proximity, make up an estimated 35 million people, or 22% of the workforce, who will suffer long-term consequences such as home foreclosures in the coming months, according to Schenker.

The economist also predicted that after the COVID-19 crisis subsides, more people will work remotely than ever before as organizations realize their employees are equally as effective at home, and that having a remote workforce means sustaining a smaller ecological footprint.

Schenker also proposed more students and young professionals will begin taking an interest in fields that have been deemed highly-influential amid the pandemic, like supply chain and health care.

“These kinds of things will cast 20-year shadows on people’s careers going forward,” he said.