During the early onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, it may have seemed easy for business leaders to become embroiled in panic and inertia in the wake of such tremendous uncertainty. Of course, maintaining a cool head during any testing time is one of the cornerstones of effective leadership, but for one managing director, establishing a new structure early on and adapting quickly to new circumstances proved equally important.
Speaking on the Leaders Council podcast, Philip Dupée, the BAFTA-winning director and managing director of film producing and photography company, Hello Love, discusses why proactivity in establishing new structures during times when one has to adapt is key for the preservation of business, while education secretary Gavin Williamson is facing even more pressure to resign, after the Labour Party claimed the standardisation model initially used to calculate this year’s A-Level results was “unlawful”.
Leadership in Focus
Explaining how he sought to lead his business through the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak, Dupée told Leaders Council interviewer, Matthew O’Neill, that strong and decisive leadership was key in implementing new procedures early on which have helped the business continue to thrive.
Dupée said: “The Covid-19 situation has brought about some dramatic changes. The last time I saw all my colleagues in person was on Friday March 13. We began a trial run of working from home then in anticipation of a lockdown, and of course that has persisted throughout the last few months out of necessity since the government brought the national lockdown in.
“The main thing you must do in a leadership role during a time of crisis is to quickly establish a sense of structure to help adapt to new circumstances. We all engage in a Zoom call every morning as part of that structure to maintain communication, and since we’ve been in lockdown we’ve been working on projects and delivering on work remotely, and at the start of each day all of my colleagues are fully aware of what they must do.
“Good leadership is to drive your team and have all members of that team behind you. You must create an atmosphere where everyone knows they are working toward a common goal, in good times and harder times. Day-to-day, I communicate with the people around me, I direct them to work on certain projects, and a lot of people are involved in putting film work together, so at each stage people must know what they’re doing and be able to deliver, so I ensure that everyone is appropriately equipped and confident to deal with the task at hand.”
With a clear response structure in place early on, the company was able to better manage the fear and worry of a lack of work going forward as demand dried up, and rather fortunately in any case, Hello Love has been left with sufficient workloads to keep busy through the lockdown period.
“A lack of work going forward hasn’t affected us”, Dupée explained.
“We have continued to carry out projects remotely, so we have not had to put that side of our business on hold, and we have actually been finishing projects as well as picking up new work from elsewhere.”
The Labour Party has called on education secretary Gavin Williamson to publish the legal advice he was given on controversial standardisation algorithm which initially calculated this year’s A-Level results, claiming that the model is “unlawful”.
Labour says that the model used by Ofqual to determine results in lieu of actual exams, which were cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, was in breach of anti-discrimination legislation and laws required to uphold certain standards.
Since making the decision to switch to teachers’ predicted grades, Williamson has apologised for the controversy, but the Department for Education has continued to support the watchdog over its use of the standardisation system.
Thousands of students are still unaware of which university they will go to, and Williamson has called on universities to show flexibility after the u-turn caused further disruption to the admissions process.
Meanwhile, Labour wants students to be given a “cast-iron guarantee” that they will not be deprived of their first-choice university place if their updated results were sufficient.
The algorithm was criticised for heavily basing final grades on the past performance of the schools that candidates attended, which saw around 40 per cent of total entries in England downgraded, including some by more than one grade. High-achieving candidates at institutions in deprived areas were disproportionately affected compared to their peers from more affluent areas.
In a letter to Williamson and Ofqual chief executive Sally Collier, Labour said that the algorithm had brought about a “mass of discriminatory impacts” which were “bound to disadvantage a whole range of groups with protected characteristics, in breach of a range of anti-discrimination legislation”.
It added: "Ofqual and the Secretary of State have been fully in the knowledge that the standardisation formula that was being used was unlawful.
"It is regrettable that only when threatened with legal action that the government finally conceded to do what Labour have been calling for; for grades to be allocated based on CAGs."
Labour has urged the education secretary to reveal when he was first told about concerns over the algorithm and the legal advice he had received prior to approving it to deliver this year’s results.
Elsewhere, schools minister Nick Gibb has informed Sky News that concerns over the algorithm were raised as early as July.
Gibb said that he had met with Sir Jon Coles, the former director general for schools at the DfE, at the time and warnings were raised that the standardisation model could see hundreds of thousands of students receive inaccurate grades.
Following a meeting with Ofqual members to discuss concerns, Gibb was “assured that the effect of their model would not be to disproportionately affect people from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Gibb added that the algorithm itself was a “fair” model but the “mathematical model” which applied it was the source of the issues.
Gibb said: “There is something wrong with the way the algorithm was applied.”
Leadership in History
On August 20, 1940, British prime minister Winston Churchill made his famous “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” wartime speech.
The name of the speech comes from the specific line, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. It referred to the ongoing efforts of Britain’s Royal Air Force which at the time was fighting in the Battle of Britain during the Second World War.
The Battle of Britain was key, with RAF crews repelling the German Luftwaffe as Britain expected an invasion attempt by Nazi Germany. The Battle of Britain is officially recognised in Britain as having begun on July 10, 1940, ending on October 31 of the same year.