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Leading Off
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The US presidential transition now underway is a watershed moment for public- and private-sector leaders to address challenges affecting countless lives and livelihoods at home and abroad. The Biden administration has placed particular emphasis on four issues to secure the nation's health and economic wellbeing. These issues—saving lives during the COVID-19 crisis, rebuilding the US economy, advancing racial equity, and mitigating climate change—are big, complex economic and social challenges that will show up on every leader's agenda in some form; they deserve deep understanding and reflection. This week, let's prepare your briefing book to help you anticipate the ways you will engage with these vital topics.
Build a bridge to normalcy
Will 2021 be the year in which the world gains a decisive upper hand in its fight against COVID-19? In the United States, the country is engaged in an unprecedented race to vaccinate as many people as possible while trying to minimize deaths in the short term. It is reasonable to hope that the first half of the year could be a bridge to “normalcy,” when many aspects of social and economic life can resume without fear of excess mortality. This memo condenses the recent history of the COVID-19 crisis into must-see charts and sets out six considerations for those building bridges to normalcy.
“Productivity isn't everything, but, in the long run, it is almost everything.”
So says Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman. For America's leaders, innovators, and changemakers, the post-World War II recovery offers valuable lessons for encouraging productivity, innovation, and social-capital creation in a post-COVID-19 future. Perhaps more important, as the experience during the pandemic shows, productivity in the future will take different forms from those that took pride of place in the postwar era. Explore what will be needed to replicate those successes.
photo of Richard N. Haass
“I'm always taken aback by the lack of understanding about how the world works and why it matters,” says Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations. In a discussion with McKinsey's James Manyika about Haass's new book, The World: An Introduction (Penguin Press, May 2020), the diplomat and policy maker underlines the importance of government and business engagement to face powerful forces—terrorism, cybersecurity, investment—that are “quantitatively different than what we've seen historically.” Among those is climate change, a bellwether challenge for the new administration in Washington to return to global leadership and engagement after an “emergence of American reluctance to be active in the world.”
The difference, in US dollars, between the average starting capital for a Black-owned business in America ($35,000) and a white-owned business ($107,000). Repairing America's frayed social fabric is one of the most pressing domestic issues facing the country. The authors of this memo argue that only by actively renewing the social contract, starting with a race-conscious approach at the foundation, can the United States begin to stifle the impact of rising inequality and damaging social disparities.
Governing better
illustration of hands and hourglass
Leadership comes in two parts: there's the vision, and there's managing the change to bring that vision to fruition. For a new administration's leaders, knowing how to effect change will be as important as knowing what to change. The pragmatic advice in this memo, “Making change happen, against the odds,” can help.
Lead well.
— Edited by Bill Javetski, an executive editor in McKinsey's New Jersey office
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