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Leading in times of Covid-19.

This research project investigates the experiences of leading and managing organizations during the corona virus pandemic and the societal circumstances that follows in the attempts to limit the spread of the disease. The project follows a number of managers operating in different sectors and countries, and documents their experiences in real time.

Business leaders have faced, with the Covid-19 pandemic, a unique crisis. This has dramatically changed the terms under which businesses and organizations organize their work and their employees, and the expectations and demands these have on leadership. To an unseen extent people have been working from home and travels were banned. At the same time the world economy slowed down, approaching depression and there were great uncertainty regarding the future.

In order to capture the development over time, the project studies the practices of managers through a series of interviews. The study is carried out as a longitudinal real-time study (1-2 years), using a multi-method approach (i.e. a mix of data-collection methods: conversational data, interviews, observations, shadowing, document analysis, etc.).

Preliminary findings indicate that leadership in this unprecedent time is both about managing chaos and boredom. To handle this large variety of situations, developing trust emerge as a central leadership skill. Leaders need to trust their employees and the process of developing and implementing new routines at the same time. However, above all, leaders need to trust themselves in not losing control in a situation few have experienced before. 

Research team: Pernilla Petrelius Karlberg and Ingalill Holmberg


Holmberg, I and Petrelius, P. (2020) Leadership in the times of COVID-19 – some real-time reflections from managers, in Sweden through the crisis, Stockholm, SIR.