The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating a humanitarian crisis of global disruptions, with hundreds of thousands of lives experiencing a multitude of immense struggles. The rollout of safe vaccinations and more science-driven political leadership offers a beacon of hope in these dark times, but the effects of the pandemic will remain long after it stops spreading. Recent studies indicate that organizations will not return to their pre-pandemic framework as social distancing measures and mask-wearing will become a norm necessitating the use of Zoom and other video conference outlets. This raises the question of how should we strengthen and enhance community leadership while remote here in the Pioneer Valley amid the COVID-19 public health crisis.

The pandemic has shown us over and over again the crucial role leaders play in extraordinary moments like this. First, leaders must be clear, empathetic, and inclusive in their decision-making. COVID-19 is a moment for unity, not separation, requiring multifaceted, creative solutions. This is only possible by ensuring leaders hear diverse voices in open dialogues, seriously consider all the available options, to prioritize the collective good. Second, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a series of underlying fissures in our community—increasing levels of food insecurity, rampant economic inequality, environmental injustices, and so much more. These profound structural problems will persist long after COVID-19 recovery. Thus, it is essential that leaders do not lose sight of the other challenges impacting our people’s lives. Finally, a leader must focus on compassionately connecting with others. Not only will this foster deeper connections, but it will cultivate trust. Leaders must genuinely care for others’ well-being as they may not be aware of the complicated troubles that a person may be facing amid COVID-19. Empathy is a key ingredient that will allow them to use their role to create a path forward for their community.

Leadership is complex and uncertain in difficult times like these. Strong leaders will weather these interwoven crises by working together, focusing on the challenges occurring in their community, and connecting with others empathetically.