Public sector leadership in a pandemic

Watch the full recorded broadcast above.

During the current global pandemic, leaders are faced with extraordinary challenges. Not only must they meet their everyday responsibilities, but they must also manage the stress of constant uncertainty, fluctuating work-life balance, ever-changing health and safety risks, and the mental health of their team – all while staying informed on rapidly changing policies and protocols. It feels like a lot to deal with because it is. Leading through a global health crisis can be overwhelming – especially if you feel like you're doing it all on your own.

On Thursday, October 1 we hosted a complimentary livestream featuring Ivey Academy professor and public policy expert Paul Boothe. He was joined by Cathy Hawara, Assistant Commissioner, Appeals Branch, Canada Revenue Agency; and Eric Santor, Advisor to the Governor on Digitialization, Bank of Canada – both alumni of our Senior Public Sector Leader Program. Together they shared their own experiences and lessons learned as they answered three key questions:

  1. What have you done to date during the pandemic?
  2. What have you learned?
  3. What comes next?

Key webinar content

Core topics

  • The mobilization of the public sector as a result of COVID-19
  • The magnitude of the pandemic’s impact on the Canadian economy and a general economic outlook for 2021 and beyond
  • How the Canada Revenue Agency has responded to the pandemic to better serve both taxpayers and employees and the challenges faced
  • Measures taken by the Bank of Canada to support the economy and financial system
  • The success of remote work as a result of investments made by the Bank of Canada prior to the pandemic
  • What it’s like to be in the spotlight in a high-pressure situation while dealing with tremendous uncertainty
  • Changes resulting from the pandemic that might be here to stay
  • Decentralization of decision making
  • The challenges of innovating in a virtual world
  • The pandemic as a catalyst for the digitization of processes that have traditionally been paper-based
  • Are we likely to see a culture change within government as a result of the disruption caused by the pandemic?
  • The role of leadership in shifting culture
  • How to continue to lead in an environment of continuous uncertainty and change
  • The challenges ahead
  • Will Canadians accept a public service that works remotely?
  • The role business schools can play in preparing the public service

Memorable quotes

“If ever you needed the motivation – to think about what our mission is, this the moment. When there’s a crisis, it’s time to step up. You’re doing your work because it’s for the benefit of others. It will make a difference … that helped keep things going as we adjusted to this very different working environment which we’re still getting used to.” – Eric Santor

“I think we had some apprehension and assumptions or biases around whether the work we do (at the Canada Revenue Agency) can be done remotely. I think that was holding us back a little bit – or a lot. But (those assumptions and biases) have been completely challenged. I think the trick is going to be avoiding the temptation to go back … there’s been acceleration on a number of fronts within the agency and I think there’s a desire among all levels of the organization to keep it going.” – Cathy Hawara

“One benefit to remote working is that now we can (recruit people to the Bank) from across Canada. If you think about diversity and inclusion, we can draw on a wider talent pool from across the country without forcing them to move to Ottawa can be very beneficial to the institution.” – Eric Santor

“The real key, as leaders, is how we’re going to lead the organization in a way that people feel supported.” – Cathy Hawara

“This experience underlines for me, a former finance deputy minister, is the value of resilience … The fact we have a resilient public service and public finances set us up to be able to respond to this (crisis).” – Paul Boothe

Additional reading

COVID-19: Working Remotely – Tips for Team Leaders, Government of Canada
Mental Health Tips for Working from Home, Government of Canada


Follow The Ivey Academy on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for future virtual event announcements.


About The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School
The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School is the home for executive Learning and Development (L&D) in Canada. It is Canada’s only full-service L&D house, blending Financial Times top-ranked university-based executive education with talent assessment, instructional design and strategy, and behaviour change sustainment. 

Rooted in Ivey Business School’s real-world leadership approach, The Ivey Academy is a place where professionals come to get better, to break old habits and establish new ones, to practice, to change, to obtain coaching and support, and to join a powerful peer network. Follow The Ivey Academy on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Associated Faculty

Paul Boothe

Paul Boothe

Professor, Business, Economics and Public Policy

You might also be interested in...