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Crisis Leadership— A Real Skills Perspective

Effective and resilient leadership is required during times of disruption to ensure that organisations are able to withstand challenges and emerge stronger.

By Aziza Mumin

The pandemic has confronted leaders with unexpected challenges filled with uncertainty. We’ve seen organisations struggle to maintain continuity, stakeholders and employees, however, it is those with an agile and resilient nature that excelled out of continuity into a recovery plan.

These unprecedented times are a rare event that don’t come with a handbook of instructions, and as such, leaders are forced to face this ambiguous situation with many questions and little answers. Those who pass this difficult test of leadership emerged with well developed traits of compassion, confidence, honesty and forward looking. Steven Huynh, the 2020 Real Skills President, shares his experience of leading the organisation through COVID-19, including the challenges he faced and how they contributed to his personal development.


Steven Huynh, UNSW Civil Engineering student and 2020 President of Real Skills

“My name is Steven and I’m currently in my final year studying Civil Engineering at the University of New South Wales. I’m currently interested in a career revolving around operations consulting and business process improvement, which has led to my current roles as the President of Real Skills and an Operations Associate at GradReady.”

Snapshot of Steven’s journey with Real Skills

“Real Skills (RSE) is the place where it all started for me. It is the community that has motivated me and shown me the way to become the best version of myself. RSE has been an immensely influential aspect during my time at university, being able to learn things which have shaped my view of the world. Not only that, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by amazing people who are also passionate about spreading this impact to students from all universities. I hope that we will be able to continue spreading our mission, instilling the mindset and guidance which I have gained to all those we interact with.”

Steven (right) at the 2019 Spring STEM Leaders Program Expo Night

“My experience in RSE has been a wild ride, where I’ve gone through all sorts of challenges and obstacles, each contributing significantly to my personal development. Some of these experiences are ones which I would have never had elsewhere, providing me with the unique opportunity of building career skills early on, while creating lasting memories. Some of these include my first leadership role with less than 6 months of experience in the team, organising the largest STEM Leaders Program that Real Skills has run and leading the organisation through the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Acting decisively to guide the Real Skills team through a crisis

“The real test of resilience came from the COVID-19 pandemic, never having expected that we would be transforming the organisation and it’s priorities entirely. This wasn’t just a simple transition to using Zoom in replacement of the usual face-to-face events, but presented so many other challenges and necessary changes. This honed my problem solving ability, providing solutions to ambiguous questions such as “How do we best serve our students in an environment where they are less motivated ”, or “How do we maintain relationships with industry partners when they were experiencing and overcoming challenges in their workplace”.”

“One of these facets includes the culture, looking at how the people in our organisation conduct themselves, and how that ties into our strategy and vision. Another is the relationships with stakeholders, and learning about how to collaborate and communicate decisions which affected each group.”

Steven (third from the left) at the 2018 Summer STEM Leaders Program Expo Night

“A special aspect of being a part of RSE is its low-risk environment as we’re constantly promoting personal development in each of our team members, where all actions taken are learning experiences with much smaller scale consequences, whereas in a real job, your actions and any risks taken may have a more far-reaching, detrimental impact.”

Lessons learnt from effective leadership through a pandemic

Although this year has been challenging for all, it presented a unique set of circumstances for leaders as their attention has been split between a wide variety of different aspects. These challenges have allowed Steven to gain exposure to many facets of the organisation in which he had not previously considered.

He had to take into account and manage multiple aspects of the organisation including students, industry partners and the team, all whilst ensuring that RSE maintained resilience and emerged stronger. This experience had allowed him to develop and master the leadership qualities of confidence, compassion and optimism. Steven’s complex and demanding journey through 2020 with RSE can best be summarised through his closing words;

“This experience has transformed my view of the world and provided me with an insightful understanding into how companies and organisations operate”.

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Real Skills Education

Offering professional development and a mission to cultivate self-sufficient and confident young individuals who in turn will lead and teach future generations.