How Real Leaders Are Leading From the Front During This Crisis


Pay cuts.


The relentlessly grim headlines.

These topics have woven themselves into almost every conversation during the last few weeks. Yet again, a Black Swan event has plunged the world into uncertainty.

People are struggling to manage their emotions, to adjust to a new workplace (their homes), and to figure out how the world will look in the aftermath of this pandemic, and what their place in it will be.

This is an acid test for leadership. As Jeff Haden writes, it’s a time for leadership that’s “calm yet determined, collaborative yet decisive, humble yet inspiring.”

Thanks to the internet, we keep hearing heartening stories of leaders doing exactly that during this crisis.

Here are three things good leaders are doing and what we can learn from them.

1. Displaying Empathy

how to show empathy as a leader

The “leave-emotions-out” philosophy invalidates the person and dehumanizes corporations. In such environments, can leaders really expect people to place the organization above themselves?

Loyalty stems from trust, which is a positive emotion. It gets built when you take care of your people during good times and bad.

A leader soaks up the pressure and creates as much certainty as possible in words and deeds. If she cannot do the latter, she helps her people navigate through their concerns and fears rather than dismissing them.

The board of directors of a renowned company embodied this when they didn’t put the joining of new candidates on hold because of the coronavirus. This instantly reassured the recruiters and new joinees.

Yes, steps like this could mean still lower revenue in the next two quarters for your organization. But imagine the goodwill you’ll reap because you invested in your biggest asset — your people.

2. Shifting Their Mindset

“How [do] you know work is getting done if you can’t see people? The only way to see it is to look at the work.” — Jason Fried

Fried points out that organizations are currently trying to simulate working in an office while working remotely. They’re holding the same number of meetings with the same number of people.

Plus, to ensure that people keep working, leaders interrupt them more through calls and emails than they did at the office.

The result is that people are getting less done despite working longer hours.

Remote working is uncharted territory for your people. Along with work, they’re managing their kids, shopping for essentials in lockdowns, harboring concerns about their future… they have a lot on their plate.

Good leaders are giving their people space during this crisis to figure things out, to sort things at work and in their heads. They’re accepting that people will work 60% of the time, and are giving them undisturbed hours at a stretch to churn out better quality work.

Focus more on work done rather than trying to clock the number of hours your people work. You’ll discover that many things are not as important as you thought they were.

Modern tools make teams more productive without sitting in front of each other. Adopt them to become flexible. Reduce useless tasks from your people’s clogged pipelines.

3. Revisit Your Purpose

“The opportunity is “What will we be?”, not “How do we preserve what we had?” — Simon Sinek

Disruption doesn’t put companies out of business. Their refusal to let go of archaic processes and adapt does. At the same time, companies that reinvent themselves emerge stronger.

Recessions often act as catalysts for innovation. Television, xerography, FM radio, and many other advances were produced during the great depression.

We’ll witness something similar in the next five years according to Mark Cuban. A few amazing companies that started during this crisis will lead us to a brighter future. One of them could be yours.

Revisit your purpose, your reason for doing business, that probably took a backseat while you were going full-steam. Let this purpose be about more than your top line and bottom line. Find innovative ways to deliver better value to your customers for less.

Your “why” will remind you of your true North and help you identify ways to reach where the ball will be, not where it currently is.

When you reframe a challenge as an opportunity, your people stop seeing themselves as victims and start focusing on how they can help themselves and the organization succeed.

Summing Up

Crises bring out your character. They test whether you’ll do the right thing even if it causes short-term pain.

Such moments define your leadership. They make or break people’s trust in you and determine whether you emerge stronger from the storm or get broken by it.

Things will not remain the same. So why should you?

Be empathic. Be flexible. Revisit your purpose and let it guide you to build a growth mindset.


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