How To Lead During Turbulent Times

    Print Email



When most people think of company leadership, they think of the people who set the organization’s goals and determine the best ways to achieve them. Those leaders are supposed to guide, inspire, challenge, oversee, decide—all the tasks that shape a company’s ability to succeed in its market and fulfill their obligations.


Under normal circumstances, strong leadership is essential to a company’s growth. Amid the disruption and uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic is currently spreading throughout the world, strong leadership is essential to a company’s very survival.  

The business world of today is almost unrecognizable from the one of early March. Many organizations have shifted their workforces entirely to work-from-home arrangements. Others struggle to remain operational but with insufficient workforces (either employees are out because of illness or, particularly in “essential” industries, the company hasn’t been able to hire and train quickly enough to meet the rapidly rising demand for its products or services) or don’t have enough orders or supplies coming in to keep their workers occupied. Some companies have had to furlough or lay off workers—and some have even shuttered completely.

In short: all companies are struggling right now. And how their leaders respond to those challenges now will have a large impact on how they weather the pandemic. This is the time for company leadership to step up and truly exemplify what it means to lead.

Be transparent and consistent. Don’t dance around the tough issues. Everyone already knows that things are bad and trying to camouflage that fact from the workforce can only make things worse by destroying trust and credibility. In times of uncertainty, people look to their leaders for information. So, leaders should share relevant, reliable information when they have it. This doesn’t mean making promises that can’t be kept, but it does mean treating employees with openness and honesty.

Communicate early and often. Right now, people are relying on each other for support more than ever. Even though social distancing is keeping people apart, families and friends are still finding ways to connect with each other. Work colleagues, too, need that connection—and leaders should make sure their organizations are providing it. Daily check-ins, weekly meetings, and video e-mails are all great ways to share company news with the team and mitigate some of the uncertainty they are experiencing. At the same time, leaders should also encourage and facilitate informal communication in which team members (including leaders) all check in with each other on a personal level to help alleviate some of the isolation and stress they’re feeling.

Listen and empathize. Humans have a natural tendency to fear the unknown. Right now, everyone at all levels of the organization is feeling uneasy at best and possibly even scared. It’s important that leaders listen attentively to their employees’ concerns and do what they can to address them. At the very least, leaders can let their employees know they are available to provide whatever support they can.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures—and these are truly extraordinary times indeed. Uncertainty abounds: no one knows when the pandemic will end and what its aftermath will look like. But there is no doubt that strong and effective leadership will be the hallmark of the companies that emerge from this crisis the healthiest. The world may never quite return to “business as usual,” but it will return to business—leaders should make sure that their companies are ready for that day.