COVID-19: A message from the BMJ Leader Editorial Team

As the editorial team of BMJ Leader, we recognise that our readers, reviewers and authors are dealing with unprecedented personal and professional uncertainty and challenge. Both for our families and at work, actions which seemed inconceivable only a few days ago are a necessary reality today.

Across the world, health and care workers are already working in the most difficult circumstances to serve their patients and populations, facing a new disease. Among these are many readers and contributors to the journal.  Health and care workers are used to managing risk and anxiety at work, but few will have experience of that anxiety being compounded by pervasive concerns for their personal safety, and for the safety of their loved ones. Fewer still will have experience of working in an environment where the whole of society is gripped by a shared set of concerns and fears, facing radical changes to social and working life on top of loss and suffering.

At BMJ Leader, we know that clinical leadership will be a critical factor in enabling and supporting staff to deliver the best outcomes possible for the largest number of patients as the pandemic unfolds. While conventional medical journals are already publishing new insights and updates into the SARS-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease, our role at BMJ Leader is different. Our stated focus at BMJ Leader is “to help build better leaders…resilient and equipped with effective leadership skills and knowledge”. We also seek to “nurture a community of leaders by improving connectivity and encouraging debate”

To this end, the BMJ Leader editorial team will continue to develop the journal as a key place for finding and contributing evidence, reflection and discussion on healthcare leadership. Our commitment to develop as a global clinical leadership journal has never seemed more appropriate as the world comes to terms with the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for patients, staff and leaders at all levels in our systems.

We want to be part of the web of support that leaders can call upon in these difficult times. We recognise the extraordinary obligations that many prospective authors and reviewers, as well as readers, will be under. Your contributions to the journal must fit around the things which demand your energy and attention. We can and will accommodate shifts in deadlines.

In the near term we expect BMJ Leader can contribute by: providing additional means to connect to other leaders; enabling leaders living through the pandemic to tell their stories; sharing the experiences of clinicians who have led in previous times of crisis – for example, now is a good time to read a clinical CEO’s perspective of being at the centre of the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus crisis, which is freely available.

In due course, we hope to publish scholarly articles of leadership learning from systems worldwide. Longer-term, we know that challenge fosters useful innovation: much will be learned about leadership styles, and fitting the needs of the moment. Although organisations and systems are rightly moving into command-and-control mode, we urge leaders to remember the need for clear communication, good listening and respect for others in these times. Similarly, leaders’ kindness and compassion, and saying so when we don’t know the answer, are particularly important in difficult times. There will also be lessons in capturing the opportunity to ‘reset’ systems in ways which deliver better for patients and staff, and how to focus more squarely on what really matters in more usual times.

We will be in touch again with our further thoughts. For now, we invite your ideas, about how BMJ Leader can be most helpful to you at this time, and the contributions you can make to sustain others. Please email these to Claire Langford (clangford@bmj.com) and/or Jennifer Thomas (jthomas@bmj.com), or or use Twitter @BMJLeader.

Most of all we hope you, your families and your colleagues remain safe, and able to keep smiling, through these challenging times.