When crises hit, they can cause significant shifts in the responsibilities resting on the shoulders of leaders, as well as the roles they are expected to play. Members of leadership may encounter any number of urgent issues that can literally make or break their organization including:

  • Layoffs or the possibility of layoffs
  • Team shortages due to layoffs or illness
  • The necessity for cutting costs in certain departments or across the board
  • Changes in how employees work – for example, transitioning to remote work
  • Employee anxiety and stress over the crisis at hand

Intensifying the pressure further is the importance of leadership portraying themselves as a steady, strong and confident force. Setting the right tone is critical. Employees will look to them for guidance and insight into the status quo. If leaders panic, employees are likely to follow suit.

Leading the right way can seem impossible given these points. However, by following the strategies below, leadership can pull it off.

No Timidity Allowed 

Crises are unrelenting and unforgiving. They bulldoze those who are timid. For this reason, those who are bold and take the bull by the horns will come out ahead during a crisis.

Boldness does not entail running over everyone in their path and refusing to listen to reason. Instead, it means looking forward instead of backwards. Approaches that once worked may be utterly futile in the current circumstances. Innovation is essential during a crisis.

It also means saying “no” to planned massive projects and other major expenses that could damage the company’s bottom line. Smart spending will take a business far even in the most turbulent times.

The Hare Wins 

While he may have triumphed in the race, the tortoise will lose in a crisis. Why? Circumstances change at a rapid-fire pace and the ground is constantly shifting during times of upheaval. In fact, it could be argued that change and uncertainty are two of the defining characteristics of a crisis.

Effective leaders do not waste time waffling over decisions or waiting until a “safer” moment to act. They power through attacks of analysis paralysis to process the information that is available at the time, make decisions about which elements are crucial and make smart decisions that strengthen the organization.

Own It 

One of the non-glamorous aspects of leadership is taking ownership of the bad along with the good. Taking ownership is not about taking blame. Rather, it is about taking accountability for their actions in addition to holding their employees accountable, ensuring the teams within the business are aligned and, ultimately, serving as an example of what they preach.

Taking ownership also entails reigning in their own emotional outbursts and managing outbursts that may happen between employees. Emotions run high during crises and the potential for simmering conflicts to become explosions is enormous. It is up to leadership to prevent this from happening in the first place and to quickly mitigate the tension when it does.

Times of crisis push leaders to perform at their best. Those who rise to the occasion will not only fortify their business, but they will also accelerate their own personal development to become the type of leader who makes history.


Uncertain times call for creative thinking. Contact Gavel International to be inspired with solutions that connect and engage your people.

Jeff Richards