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Ontological (in)security and Covid-19: Reimagining Crisis Leadership in UK Higher Education

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Katharine A. M. WrightORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


The UK, at present, is characterised by a sense of ontological insecurity. Christopher S. Browning (2018) describes this type of insecurity as “fundamentally destabilising and challenging established worldviews, routines and core conceptions of selfhood” (2018, 337). This is not a new phenomenon but one highlighted by years of multiple and intersecting crises, the most recent of which is the Covid-19 pandemic. The impact of these many crises is felt unevenly. The crises are themselves deeply gendered, racialised and classed, with a disproportionate impact on those living with disabilities or who are more elderly. As the latest crisis unfolded, a preoccupation with mortality rates fuelled a heightened and persistent state of anxiety, and raises questions about governance, leadership and security (Cuthbertson, 2021; Purnell, XXX). The UK government especially comes up short when contrasted with other states who have controlled the virus through effective leadership. Leadership practice is not “one size fits all”. As the management of the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates, effective leadership is contextual and requires detailed understanding of socio-cultural factors but also attention needs to be given to the values expressed by the leaders. For instance, compassion and empathy have been key drivers for New Zealand, whereas transparency has underscored South Korea’s approach. What these cases have in common is an effective approach to crisis management that helped to contain the overall death toll.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wright KAM, Haastrup T, Guerrina R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Critical Studies on Security

Year: 2021

Volume: 9

Issue: 2

Pages: 174-178

Online publication date: 15/10/2021

Acceptance date: 04/06/2021

Date deposited: 07/06/2021

ISSN (print): 2162-4887

ISSN (electronic): 2162-4909

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/21624887.2021.1978648


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