Leadership Training during the Pandemic and Organizational Integration

Schmidt Hanbidge, Alice J. | $24,878

Ontario University of Waterloo 2021 SSHRC

Challenges to be Addressed

Leaders are struggling to address the turbulent changes that the COVID‑19 pandemic brought to the workplace, as it becomes clear that existing models of leadership are not effective in the context of ongoing, rapid, multidimensional change. Several authors have recently written about the extreme change and adversity that leaders are currently coping with due to the pandemic (Barton et al., 2020; Chima & Gutman, 2020) and the strategies required for leaders and organizations to manage through this crisis (Chen Nielson et al., 2020; Frailich & Lund, 2021; Mendy et al., 2020). Prolonged workplace stress and adversity influence leaders’ ability to maintain resilience (Ledesma, 2014). Leaders’ ability to survive, recover, or thrive during adversity is influenced by multiple individual variables such as hardiness, strong coping skills and self-efficacy. Organizational support and resiliency are critical for leaders to successfully cope with adversity. However, there is sparse research on organizational resiliency and the calls for further research on both characteristics of thriving leaders and resilient organizations (Ledesma, 2014) provide support for the current proposed study.

The current proposed study with our partner organization, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA London,Ontario), will build on this literature by examining leaders’ coping skills, opportunities, challenges, social support, organizational support and resources during the pandemic. The purpose of this research was identified as a need by our stakeholder partner CMHA, and is to methodologically examine leaders’ experiences (both challenges and opportunities), coping with the pandemic, and to deliver and evaluate leadership training on resiliency and coping skills for CMHA. This training will assist leaders (directors and managers) with knowledge and skills to successfully cope with the challenges and opportunities that have come about due to the pandemic. These findings will have scholarly significance as the research on leaders’ coping and resilience is limited (Ledesma, 2014). The project training materials will be available on an open access website for CMHA leaders and organizations nationally.

Project Objectives: The overall goal is to provide leadership training on resiliency during a pandemic while navigating organizational restructuring. Specific objectives include to:

(O1): complete integrative literature review and annotated bibliography to inform training content

(O2): develop and deliver training workshop on leadership resiliency; develop Advisory Committee to guide project

(O3): evaluate the training experience with online survey; project website development

(O4): thematic data analysis; written summary report; peer-reviewed publication; conference presentations.

Our theoretical approach focuses on resilience theory related to leadership development. Student research assistants will be trained and mentored by the researchers throughout the project to develop research skills.

This partnership is between the two researchers and CMHA. Continued meaningful engagement throughout the research project will be facilitated by the development of an Advisory Committee (AC) with key members of CMHA (3 directors, 3 administrative assistants), along with the PI, CoPI and three student research assistants. This AC will guide knowledge production and decision-making processes and provide ongoing feedback to ensure CMHA’s expertise is utilized and their needs are met, and communication flow is consistent throughout the project. The researchers have an established professional working relationship, through an earlier supervision training workshop, with the CMHA directors, who are engaged and directed development of this work.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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