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Leadership during a crisis – why it matters

by Sabrina Colafabio


Leadership is a characteristic that is nurtured from when we are children and well into adulthood. We see its full effect on playgrounds, in our homes and in our places of work, and without it, chaos can ensue. This is particularly true during a time of crisis, when the right leadership can make the difference between success or stress. Here are some great tips on how to lead during a time of crisis to ensure a positive outcome:


1) React quickly

Time is of the essence and while a leader will ordinarily require deep analysis into available options when having to make decisions, this is not always possible in a crisis. The main takeaway here is to make sound choices with the little and incomplete information at hand because acting too slowly can be detrimental. Trade-offs need to happen, and the leadership needs to own that, including any missteps along the way (and there will be many). The point is, it is better to react quickly and adapt along the way, than to wait.


2) Adapt to the changing circumstances

During a crisis, things can change quickly and the best way to get ahead of this is to obtain information quickly and from various sources. Relying on feedback from one person or team can make decisions appear to be one sided when the more appropriate solution may require a multi-faceted approach. Getting outside information or help can also prove beneficial particularly during fast-changing events.


3) Communicate and engage

A leader’s obligation is to make the best decisions for the organization while also remembering that stress can be at an all time high. To help keep a positive work environment, assuage doubts and concerns, communicate frequently and decidedly. Remain as optimistic as possible and show empathy. In addition to the usual corporate communication, make yourself available to your team for questions and discussions. Remind your staff that exercise, sleep and meditation can help with stress and you must lead by example.


4) Walk away for the greater good

Sometimes, and particularly during times of crisis, decisions or leadership style has failed. The result is that the organization is worse-off because of lack of employee engagement and poor business decisions. Sometimes it is also true that these things can be the result of a ‘force majeure’ and that the impact of leadership’s decisions are minimal in the face of this major disturbance. Either way, for the greater good of the organization and its people, the best decision would be to step down. A new person with a fresh perspective and ideas can be just what an organization needs to reinvigorate and remember that failure today can bring success tomorrow.


Lastly, and thankfully, a crisis is always finite and it’s important to remind yourself and those around you that while difficult and unorthodox decisions need to be made, that this is temporary and this time of uncertainty shall pass. You may emerge from all this with some significant battle wounds, but the experience and lessons learned are what will prepare you for life’s next big challenge.



Nichols, Hayden, Trendler. 2020, April 02. 4 Behaviors That Help Leaders Manage in a Crisis. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/04/4-behaviors-that-help-leaders-manage-a-crisis


Mariam-Arthur, Karima. 2017, October 23. 3 Steps Effective Leaders Take When Dealing With Crisis. Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/289633


Rampton, John. 2019, October 11. 9 Signs It's Time for You to Step Down as a Leader. Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/340619


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