Leadership Challenges as the CDC Director


In the assigned article, Osterholm (2005) highlighted some problems associated with preparing for future influenza pandemics. Without going into the details of these problems, he also mentioned leadership challenges that underscore the existence of these problems. One of them was determining the format, or structure, for partners in the international community to discuss how to fund the production of influenza vaccines (Osterholm, 2005). This leadership challenge emerges from the author’s recommendation to involve the international community in funding the production of new vaccines. Another leadership challenge that emerged from the case study involved how to develop a consensus among health stakeholders for the use of vaccines before the onset of another pandemic (Osterholm, 2005). In this analogy, public health leaders would have to determine who receives the vaccines first, and what criterion they would use to make such a decision. These leadership challenges would mostly outline the work of the CDC director in an influenza pandemic.

How my Challenges as the CDC Director Relate to the Challenges of FEMA Director, Governor of affected State, and Incidence Response Commander

My leadership challenges as the CDC director would mostly emerge through the inefficiencies of inter-agency communication as I relate with other patrons in the health care sector. For example, resource limitation is one challenge that would affect the CDC director and the FEMA director because both parties often grapple with the decision to determine who would receive help first and who should have to wait. Communication is another challenge that would affect these parties, and the incidence response commander. Indeed, it is difficult to understand how different agencies would communicate effectively within one communication platform when they are products of different communication styles. For example, the Office of the Governor is a political office and is familiar with a communication structure that suits its context (politics).

However, health agencies are professional groups that use other styles of communication (Danforth, Doying, Merceron, & Kennedy, 2010). Creating a seamless communication strategy that would include all parties is a common problem for all the parties highlighted in the assigned article. Lastly, my leadership challenges as the CDC director would also relate to the challenges of the FEMA director, Governor of the affected state, and the incidence response commander because we would all have to figure out a business model for population health that suits all health stakeholders. This fact stems from the acknowledgement that some stakeholders would want to know the business model for population health as a precondition to participate in public health programs. Indeed, as Melvyn, Hamstra, Yperen, Wisse, and Sassenberg (2011) point out, it is difficult to ignore the “commercial component” of influenza prevention when developing strategic plans to prevent future outbreaks. For example, drug companies need to understand how they would benefit (commercially) from increasing the production of the influenza vaccine. Based on such facts, the leaders of different public health fields need to figure out the business model of population health that relates to the focus of study.

The key point of this analysis is the need to have a multiagency approach to the management, or preparedness, of future influenza pandemics. However, the success of such a strategy depends on the implementation of effective leadership styles that would cater to the interests and needs of all associated parties by recognizing the challenges of doing so in the first place (Nahavandi, 2014).

The assigned article details the challenges and lack of preparedness of the US, and other countries, in managing, or preparing, for future influenza pandemics. The paper highlights the dangers posed by the broken systems of manufacturing and producing influenza vaccines, the limited resources available to do so, the lack of a detailed staffing plan, and the limited stockpiles of antiretroviral drugs, as some issues that undermine the preparedness to manage future pandemics (Osterholm, 2005). Interactively, the paper also highlights the need to have healthy discussions about how we could better prepare ourselves to manage such pandemics. As one recommendation, the paper highlights the need to have a global funding system that would pay for the increased production of the influenza virus.

How the Challenges highlighted in the Case Study Affect Crisis Response

The assigned case study details different challenges that undermine our preparedness to manage another influenza pandemic. Some of these challenges include resource limitations, the lack of a proper communication framework to develop consensus regarding the use of vaccines, and the lack of a detailed staffing plan (Osterholm, 2005). These challenges are bound to affect the crisis response system and the individuals associated with the same system, differently. For example, the lack of resources to manufacture, produce, and distribute vaccines could significantly affect the supply structure of drugs that are needed to stop the further spread of the flu. In this regard, the general response structure would be unable to contain the spread of influenza. The lack of a detailed staffing plan could also jeopardize the crisis response system through a lack of quality, or professional, care because there would be insufficient health personnel to attend to the victims. A worst-case scenario would be the death of health workers from unforeseen influenza infections. This is an example of how the leadership challenges highlighted in the assigned article could affect individuals in the crisis response team. The decision making process in the crisis management team could also be affected by the lack of a proper and effective communication structure that would allow them to develop a consensus for the use of vaccines, or other health management tools. Thus, these leadership challenges, if left unchecked, could undermine the effectiveness of the crisis response plan.

How Transformational and Transactional Leaders could Influence Outcomes in the Case Study

According to Gupta (2009), different leadership styles affect the management of different health systems. Transformational and transactional leadership styles are some of these styles. The transformational leadership style is mostly applicable when organizations need to change (Gupta, 2009). In other words, it is mostly useful in change management. The transactional leadership style is different from the transformational leadership style because it focuses more on the relationship between leaders and their subordinates. In the context of our case study, transformational leaders could influence the outcomes of the case analysis by working with all stakeholders to identify areas that need change (Gupta, 2009). The same leaders could also create a vision to guide change management by inspiring all members of the change team to do so. In this way, there would be a stronger stakeholder buy-in in the change management process (Gupta, 2009). One area where such leaders are bound to be effective is in improving communication among health stakeholders because through increased motivation and collaboration, the stakeholders could develop a stronger consensus regarding the health issues for managing the influenza pandemic.

Transactional leaders could also influence the outcomes of the disease management process by increasing the efficiency of the crisis management plan (Leadership Champions, 2008). Such is the outcome that many researchers have affirmed in their studies because they say transactional leaders use disciplinary power to increase performance (Leadership Champions, 2008). For example, they could do so by exchanging rewards for performance. Comprehensively, transactional leaders would make sure that everything flows smoothly in the crisis management plan. These contributions highlight how they would affect the outcomes in the case study.

How Poor Leadership may Affect the Outcome of the Case

Poor leadership may affect the outcome of the assigned case study, differently. One notable way is the lack of synergy (Silvia & McGuire, 2010). This outcome could occur because there would be poor task coordination in the crisis management plan. Therefore, there could be minimal discussions among partners that would eventually lead to the realization of poor outcomes in the crisis management plan. The possibility of low morale among the health workers is also another plausible outcome of poor leadership because the latter is often synonymous with uncertainties and lack of direction in the overall crisis management plan (Silvia & McGuire, 2010). Therefore, health workers may lack the motivation to implement specific tenets of the crisis management plan. The low morale may also affect health stakeholders who may hesitate to offer their support in managing future health crises. Based on these analyses, we find that effective leadership is an integral factor to consider in the management of public health threats.


Gupta, A. (2009). Transformational leadership. Practical management: Designing a better workplace. Web.

Leadership Champions. (2008). Web.

Osterholm, M.T. (2005). Preparing for the next pandemic. The New England Journal of Medicine, 352(18), 1839–1842.

Silvia, C., & McGuire, M. (2010). Leading public sector networks: An empirical examination of integrative leadership behaviors. The Leadership Quarterly, 21(2), 264–277. Web.

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