Leading Through COVID-19 with Kate Moran: Leadership Lessons During a Disaster

4 minute read
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On May 28th, for IOG's live webcast, Leading Through COVID-19 #leadingthroughC19, IOG President Toby Fyfe interviewed President and CEO of Ocean Networks Canada, Kate Moran. Moran, who worked in the U.S. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, recounted her involvement during that time, and offered key tips that public servants can keep in mind to help them before and during a crisis or disaster.

Moran outlined the events that unfolded around the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and described the process that was followed in her department to help troubleshoot and manage the disaster. She highlighted the leadership and expertise provided by the former U.S. Secretary of Energy (and Nobel Prize winning physicist) Steven Chu, who was essential as a key advisor in the government's response to the oil spill. One of the many things then Secretary Chu did very effectively was leverage expertise from outside of government, particularly from the academic sector. Following suit, and on the heels of work that was already being done by Moran and her team who happened to be developing a National Ocean policy at the time, science and technology experts were also called upon.

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The response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, much like the responses to myriad crises we have highlighted during this webcast series (including the current pandemic) required collaboration within government, and, as illustrated thus far, outside of government. However, echoing some of the other leaders we have featured on this webcast, Moran stressed that a government cannot simply manifest this type of collaboration overnight. In addition to two other tips, she offered key advice for managing a crisis or disaster, including what to do before the crisis occurs, hence, something that should be done regularly: establishing interdepartmental relationships and systems. In a word, collaboration.

Moran offered a few key pieces that, after much reflection from her own experience, she feels are important to consider.

To quote Moran, it's important to:

  • have pre-established interdepartmental machinery so that when a crisis happens, you don't have to get it up and running again.
  • document the policy throughout the crisis, because then you have that ability to make change in the future -- or if you can on the fly -- and I'm impressed with this federal government's amazing policy agility during this Covid time. Documenting those policy roadblocks or issues will help in the future in terms of developing future policy.
  • make sure that your decision-making goes up. Decision making sits at the bureaucratic level all the time, but we were finding it very important that both the President and the Science Advisor (Secretary Chu) always knew everything that we were making decisions on, and that really strengthened not only our work, but it allowed us to have more freedom."

Thank you to Kate Moran for sharing her experiences, and offering key advice on leadership when faced with a crisis/disaster.

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This webcast series is brought to you with the support of SAS. Together, we can make a difference with passion, expertise and technology. Click here to learn more about SAS COVID-19 Response in this resource hub.

About the author

Institute on Governance

Institute on Governance

Founded in 1990, the Institute on Governance (IOG) is an independent, Canada-based, not-for-profit public interest institution with its head office in Ottawa and an office in Toronto. Our mission is ‘advancing better governance in the public interest,’ which we accomplish by exploring, developing and promoting the principles, standards and practices which underlie good governance in the public sphere, both in Canada and abroad.

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