Leadership Communication And Public Action Or Inaction: The Case Of Covid Spread

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Communication makes a big difference in leadership because it transfers ideas, facilitates information exchange, enables interaction and consolidates courses of action. In leadership communication there is an exchange of information, advice and opinions between experts, community leaders, officials and the people.  Therefore if there are misshapes in communication, the public being led is bound to be misled, disoriented and vulnerable to manipulation. Yet leaders continue to exhibit low levels of communication skills as demonstrated during the coronavirus frenzy. The situation gets worse when in the moment of communication leaders face off with media controversies.

Some Communication Misshapes During The Covid Break

World Health Organisations Articulations

In March 2020 the World Health Organisation came up with standard measures for the prevention of the Coronavirus. These included hand and respiratory hygiene, the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), injection safety practices, safe waste management, proper linens, environmental cleaning, and sterilization of patient-care equipment. However the disease was said to be incurable, yet there was growing knowledge of people recovering. To date people continue to wonder how an incurable pandemic has patients bouncing back. And despite the numerous deaths attributed to COVID 19 worldwide, there is public concern if the disease is a hoax or not. This gets worse, with how numbers continue to be tallied to indicate numbers of infections, without deducting those who have recovered. The public impression therefore is, there is a lot that is hidden therein.

The Trump Mischief

In April 2020 Kelland Kate and Satter reported in Reuters that President Donald Trump had horrified experts with the idea of using disinfectants to treat the disease.  Trump is quoted to have said:

 

“Is there a way we can do something like that by injection, inside, or almost a cleaning?” adding “It would be interesting to check that.”

 

This was followed by a global uproar of medical practitioners urging people not to follow President Trump’s proposal.

A Press Briefing by the President in July 2020 at the Burial of Herman Cain had the following statement:

 

“Thank you very much. Let me begin by expressing our sadness at the passing of a wonderful man and a dear friend of mine, Herman Cain. He was a very special person. I got to know him very well. And unfortunately, he passed away from the thing called the China virus.”

 

For many, this was interpreted as racist and inciting racism hostility against the Chinese and other related close to them; namely the Japanese, Koreans and Philippines.

Kelland Kate and Satter, Reuters News, Online

Ugandan Dilemma

The President of Uganda His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni made a number of Presidential Addresses during the COVID 19 scare period and though he endeavored to put across points that would enlighten Ugandans, many complained of language barriers as well as misinterpreted communication. One of the Presidential Addresses in June 2020 had to be repeated in attempt to clarify on what had been spoken previously.

The effect of communication was noted in uncertainties such as what the difference between a spare parts marketing shop and spare part vending as well as garage, was. What the difference between an arcade and mall as well as shops and supermarkets, was. Failure to differentiate often led to the public going against the regulations.

Then came a big blow to the coronavirus prevention campaign; when the Minister of Health, whom everyone expected to be the model lead, entertained a crowd without a mask or gloves. According to the Minister Hon. Aceng her supporters rushed forward to meet her and it was difficult to control them as they sought masks and pictures.

This left more Ugandans convinced the Coronavirus was a hoax, even when there was global evidence of deaths.

COMMUNICATION HICUPS IN COVID

A leader is an influencer and thus a leader who fails to communicate effectively, opens up loopholes for wrong information to override the correct information. COVID 19 has had a mass flow of information that has left the public perplexed and in the process; there is a high risk of people being infected.

There is no clear agreement regarding preventing the disease. While the World Health Organisation (WHO) has put out guidelines, numerous scientists have taken their debate on social media, leaving the public in a chaotic mental state. This mean regulations will not be followed or will be followed but without serious caution.

 

COVID communication has had inconsistencies in the treatment regimen.  The Hydroxychloroquine glee faded to the use of dexamethasone. Yet others have maintained the former alongside vitamin c and zinc. Cross cutting is a good health diet, lots of sunshine and water. Lack of clarity has sent people on a ‘blind men touching an elephant’ kind of venture, where everyone has their own interpretation.  The foundation of scientific evaluation, has hit a snag and there are fangs of competitive pressures that are visible in the race to produce a solution to COVID 19.

 

The blame game between China and the USA has not made it any better. When the world is trying to digest the trials COVID has brought, blurts on who caused it arise. And the thought that it would be a bio-weapon creates more agony. More than ever humanity has broken into a racial blur. Once there was hope in organisations like the World Health Organisation, which stood out under the umbrella of humanity. Now there is a lot of hesitation with people speaking more in terms of their races and nationalities.

COMMUNICATION AS A DOUBLE EDGED SWORD

Communication is weapon that triggers and ignites action or inaction. The Pfeiffer library Volume indicates:

 

Communication originates as mental images within a person who desires to convey those images to another. Mental images can include ideas, thoughts, pictures, and emotions. The person who wants to images can include ideas, thoughts, pictures, and emotions. The person who wants to communicate is called the sender. To transfer an image to another person, the sender first must transpose or translate the images into symbols that receivers can understand. Symbols often are words but can be pictures, sounds, or sense information (e.g., touch or smell). Only through symbols can the mental images of a sender have meaning for others. The process of translating images into symbols is called encoding.”

 

Humanity is ordained with a subjective entity no one can tell until communication happens. When communication happens the positive and negative are bound to be recognized and mitigated to generate a progressive outcome. This defines the double edged possibilities in communication. When the mental images are conveyed in communication there is need to sift them for effective communication to be achieved. A leader does not speak his mind but what is refined from his or her mind. For when a leader communicates the communication foreruns the next course of action. Careless speeches, gestures and emotions only serve to destroy.

Effective Communication for Public Action or Inaction

Public action relates to the activities people would engage in after a given communication. These would be good or bad. Public inaction refers to a dormant state where no activity occurs. In the case of the COVID 19 scenario people have attained both levels after communication has been made; as noted in the aforementioned misshapes. The World Health Organisation asserts that, Communication by authorities to the public should include explicit information about uncertainties associated with risks, events and interventions, and indicate what is known and not known at a given time.

For communication to be active in a positive manner, research has to be done to avoid miscommunication. Based on the research findings a leader is in position to reflect, lay a communication plan as well as strategies that propagate the message developed; well-tailored to suit the publics (for example according to gender, youth, races, work resources in all categories).

The effect of this message has to be gauged at its inception through a pretested delivery point and later post the actual delivery; when it has to be assessed to determine how it worked and what can be done to better the situation.  

WHO indicates the need to build trust among the affected population and integrate emergency risk communication into systems? This it states can be attained by linking risk communication to functioning and accessible services, by being transparent,  offering communication that is timely, easy-to-understand, able to acknowledge uncertainty, address affected populations, link to self-efficacy, and be disseminated using multiple platforms, methods and channels.

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