CSAC Institute COVID-19 Pandemic Leadership Resources

COVID-19 is presenting us with both technical and adaptive challenges. There is a plethora of valuable technical information coming from every county, and CSAC is maintaining a comprehensive COVID-19 resources webpage with current county, state and federal information.

This is an adaptive challenge as well; requiring us rethink our work and change habits, beliefs, hearts, and minds. Adaptive change is complex because it involves people … and people are complex.

Addressing adaptive challenges and change requires the exercise of leadership. To that end, the Institute has created this page with a carefully curated selection of resources for these times. Many have been prepared in the last month by Institute faculty specifically to address exercising leadership now. A new series of “Institute Tip Sheets” is included. These briefs are written specifically for these times and summarize practices from Institute courses and current literature. We have also included some classic articles that are as appropriate today as when they were written.

We will constantly update this site throughout the response and recovery to the Coronavirus pandemic. In particular expect to see more resources on leadership in a recovery as we move forward. Please share this resource and check back for new resources.


Working Through Uncertainty: Best Practices for Personal and Team Readiness and Resilience
Thursday, June 11, 2020 

Slow Down to Speed Up: Manage and Strengthen Resilience for the Next Normal
Thursday, June 18, 2020 

Lead and Manage from Afar: Nuts and Bolts of Facilitating Virtual Meetings and Teams
Thursday, June 25, 2020 

Adaptive Leadership in the New Normal 
Thursday, July 16, 2020

Living and Leading in Chaotic Times  
Thursday, July 23, 2020

Beyond Survival and Being Human
Thursday, July 30, 2020


  • Tip Sheet: Leadership Practices in a Crisis  Collection of best practices from Institute classes summarized into one page as reminders for day-to-day action. (April, 2020, Bill Chiat)

  • Tip Sheet: Building Around  Purpose: Coaching Employees through Ambiguity   Coaching and regrounding employees in the purpose of their work and the value they are contributing to the community can help people get through these trying times. Here are some proven methods.  (Bill Chiat, May, 2020)

  • Tip Sheet: Compassionate Leadership: A crucial power in a crisis   Employees are experiencing a range of physiological and psychological responses from the lost sense of security and normalcy in both their personal and professional lives. Compassionate leadership is proving to be a crucial power to shepherd organizations into a post-crisis next normal. Here are some practices. (May, 2020. Bill Chiat)

  • Tip Sheet: Effective Holding Environments to Foster Adaptive Change  Addressing adaptive challenges requires people to make adaptive change. This provides tips for facilitating courageous conversations with people facing changes to their work and lives. (April, 2020, Bill Chiat)

  • Tip Sheet: Balancing Leadership and Management Through a Crisis   We often emphasize leadership practices in Institute courses, but with the complexity and change required in a crisis, leadership practices alone are insufficient. Here are some tips for balancing management and leadership. (April, 2020, Bill Chiat)

  • Tip Sheet: The Right Words for Tough Conversations and Questions   People are feeling deeply unsettled today, and our anxieties drive us to ask new questions of, and listen to every word from, authority figures. These best practices help build trust and bring clarity and hope to your communications. (April 30, 2020, Bill Chiat)

  • Tip Sheet: Engage Employees in Their Rapid Learning of New Skills   As counties move through the COVID-19 response and recovery, many employees are being called upon to take on new tasks which require skill building. Adults learn differently than children, and there are techniques that will make your skill-building sessions effective and build employee confidence in their ability to perform the new skill. (May, 2020, Bill Chiat)

  • Tip Sheet: Taking Risks in a Risky World: Encourage and Support Innovation   Two consistent attributes of resilient people and organizations are their uncanny ability to innovate and a bias for speed and action. Both are new capacities in the public sector and take the courage to face fears and act. Some practices can create an environment that builds courage, faces fears and supports innovation.  (June, 2020, Bill Chiat)

  • The Toughest Leadership Test   A must-read for CEO/CAOs and Department Heads.  Once the crisis is over, everyone is likely to remember how county senior executives acted during the pandemic. To pass this toughest leadership test, senior executives are paying even more attention to what they say and do. Executives from across the globe report on daily routines and ways of working to help them and their organizations weather this crisis and emerge stronger from it. (May, 2020, McKinsey & Company)

  • Ideals from Lincoln  President Lincoln exhibited the ideals of transformational leadership in another turbulent time in our nation’s history. This is a list of those ideals as interpreted by Doris Kerns Goodwin in "Leadership in Turbulent Times." (2018, Simon & Schuster)

  • Executives are facing the enormous challenge of guiding people through a crisis that has upended the lives of every single person. History can serve as a model for how leaders inspire others and manage their own anxieties. Two recent articles highlight how history's best leaders responded in uncertain worlds. In "How History's Great Leaders Managed Ambiguity " Harvard professor Nancy Koehn explains how some very best leaders understood how to provide stability, a steady hand, and hope, even when they themselves were uncertain about the road ahead. A McKinsey & Company report, "Lessons from the Generals: Decisive action amid the chaos of crisis " explores ideas drawn from the experience of crisis-management professionals—and county officials struggling to respond to this pandemic can learn a great deal from military generals.

  • Podcast: How Organizations Are Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic  Institute Dean Bill Chiat discusses leadership practices local governments are or should be considering, and some silver linings. (CPS HR Consulting)

  • Podcast:  A Time for Women Leaders to Shine   Lessons in leading through a crisis from a woman who started her career as a nurse and is now the CEO of a global nonprofit. (May, 2020, Sheila Davis, CEO of Partners In Health)

  • Career Compass - We Need Adaptive Leaders Now   There is great uncertainty about when and how to act. Yet the leaders and followers must act anyway. Here are some suggestions to promote adaptive leadership.  (April, 2020, Frank Benest)

  • Career Compass – Leading by Living Your Values  In times of uncertainty and change people look to leaders for calm and reassurance. While you can’t protect people, you can let your values guide your decisions and actions. And it will get noticed by others. (2017, Frank Benest)

  • Career Compass – Overcoming Deep Seated Fears  Exercising leadership compels one to exert positive influence and act with others to make things better. Fears get in the way and we are immobilized. We then cannot fulfill our leadership role. Here are strategies for overcoming fears. (2017, Frank Benest)

  • How to Demonstrate Calm and Optimism in a Crisis   Six practices can help leaders build their self-awareness and guide their organizations through the challenges ahead. (April, 2020, McKinsey & Company)

  • COVID-19: What Employees Need From Leaders Right Now  Gallup studied past crises to learn what leaders can do during COVID-19. Use five survey items to audit your leadership approach. (March, 2020, Gallup, Inc.)

  • A Leader’s Guide: Communicating with teams, stakeholders, and communities during COVID-19  COVID-19’s speed and scale breed uncertainty and emotional disruption. How organizations communicate about it can create clarity, build resilience and catalyze positive change. Superior crisis communicators tend to do these five things well.  (April, 2020, McKinsey & Company)

  • Don’t Let Uncertainty Paralyze You    When confronting a situation freighted with anxiety and ambiguity most of us can imagine no upside. We become paralyzed. This article offers three habits that can help develop your “uncertainty capability.”  (April, 2020, Nathan Fur, Harvard Business Review)

  • Crisis Communication: How Great Leaders Stop Rumors Before They Start  Leaders can stop misinformation from damaging engagement and culture. Communication should be transparent, realistic and relationship-building b y following these tips. (April, 2020, Gallup Inc.)

  • Managing the Human Side of Change  A classic article that examines of the ten most common reasons managers encounter resistance to change, and tactics for dealing with each. (1985, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School)

  • Implementing Your Vision When Times are Tough  These are times to reinforce, not let go of your vision. Here are some strategies for facing and managing change in the most extreme environments, (2019, Joanne Murphy, Queen’s University)


  • Tip Sheet: Imagining the New Future: Think about possibilities   No one has the crystal ball, but there are certainly some emerging trends which may offer clues for some attributes of the next normal. We have been tracking research and commentaries from a range of sources and summarize some of these trends most likely to influence county operations and strategy  (May, 2020. Bill Chiat)

  • Tip Sheet: Build a Network of Teams to Respond and Plan-Ahead for Recovery   Most counties have created crisis-response teams to deal with immediate public health and fiscal challenges. Now is also the time to consider creating a “Plan-Ahead Team” to support executives and the Board on recovery phase decisions, looking ahead in months and years.  (April, 2020, Bill Chiat)



We welcome your contributions of resources others might find of value. We will post them here and share with the Institute community. Please send contributions to [email protected]