Leading During Uncertain Times

Mar 20, 2020

Business leaders everywhere are grappling with how to handle the coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak. These are uncertain times, indeed.

What will happen tomorrow, next week or next month?  Things likely will get worse before they get better, but how much worse?  How will your business and your people weather the storm?  These are the questions your people are asking you and you are asking yourself in the face of these unprecedented circumstances.

How you show up as a leader during this time will define you and your business or organization long after the germs have cleared.

Be a calm, grounded, reassuring force
by following these
SEVEN Leadership Principles:


Your people don’t expect you to fix the problem.  But they are looking to you – the leader – as a source of guidance on how to react to these stressful events. Think of it this way: when flying becomes turbulent, airplane passengers look at the faces of the flight attendants. If the flight attendants seem calm, the passengers think “okay, this feels scary, but we must be okay.”  Remain calm. Reassure your people that although you can’t predict the future with precision, you care about them and their physical, emotional and financial health and safety. Express a sense of faith that you will get through these challenging times together.


There’s nothing that communicates trust better than transparency. Be open with the people in your span of care about what’s going on and how your organization is responding. Many leaders delay communication until they have a clean, crisp message. Don’t wait. Even if you haven’t quite determined the best way forward, communicate that you’re committed to keeping your people apprised in real time and that their well-being is a top concern. The trust you generate now will have a lasting effect on the strength of your organizational infrastructure.


A strong leader empowers others to determine the solution. Many companies (especially small ones) are facing major struggles and are even questioning their ability to survive this. Invite your people to weigh in on a possible solution to the biggest challenges you face as a company. Ask them what they need. And listen to what they share with genuine curiosity and concern. In doing so, you will cultivate a sense of inclusivity and shared purpose. And, you never know, someone may just offer a solution you haven’t thought of.


When making difficult decisions, go back to the basics – your organizational values. Your values represent who you are and what you stand for. They are intended to be a guiding force in good times, and especially in hard times. If you don’t have a clear set of values, now’s the time to identify them!


What past experiences can you draw from to foster a sense of faith and resilience? A global pandemic certainly presents novel challenges, but surely, your organization has overcome hard times in the past. Drawing on past examples of triumph will present a strong reminder of how resilient your team can be when it works together to solve problems.


Focus on the solution, not the problem. In doing so, keep an eye open for opportunities that may not be obvious on the surface. No doubt, you face short term challenges. What long-term opportunities can be created out of these circumstances?


Although social separation may be necessary, social isolation is not and could be detrimental to your team’s spirit and, likewise, your company’s productivity. Make sure your team stays as connected as possible. If you don’t have access to a virtual platform, get one — think: zoom, google hangouts, etc. Set a regular cadence for all company virtual huddle meetings (perhaps every Monday morning) and team meetings (consider a daily kickoff meeting). Instead of sending emails, pick up the phone and talk to one another. Even better, instead of calls, meet face-to-face virtually whenever possible.

In the end, your leadership won’t be measured by any one thing you do or any one decision you make. It will be measured by how you show up and take care of those in your care. Show ’em what you’re made of!

As an executive and leadership coach, one of my specialties is helping business leaders navigate times of change. I’m here to support you!

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