leadership in crisis

What exactly makes a good leader? Is it likeability, strong delegation skills, or the way you communicate with your teams to achieve your business goals. Strong leadership comes from a place of listening, understanding and also being able to thrive when problems arise. For example, when the COVID-19 outbreak happened, many leaders were faced with tough decisions like dropping personnel or not being able to pay existing staff. 

During times of heavy disruption, it’s up to a leader to hold the torch and guide the way forward for his team. For example, the apparel brand Patagonia made a decision to continue paying employees, despite stores being closed around the globe. That shows a serious commitment to their employees and also dedication to maintaining healthy company culture.

It’s not feasible for every company to hold a pot of cash in times of crisis when its employees need it, so that’s understandable if you can’t. However, there are other ways you can still lead your teams while keeping productivity at its peak during the pandemic and the first thing on the list should be ensuring the safety of your team members. 

Even though we’re almost out of the woods with this pandemic, lockdowns are being lifted and restrictions are being eased. It’s still a good practice to be mindful and prepare strategies of how to combat crisis situations in the future. I’ve put together a few strategies that can help you shift your company culture to build stronger relationships with your teams and boost productivity along the way. 

Prioritize Those Priorities

It’s time to create a centralized list of priorities that can be executed on local levels by managers and decision-makers. In times like these, you want your organization to be as agile as possible; a dynamic structure enables you to respond quickly and effectively when problem-solving. 

As a strong and effective leader, you’re the first line of defense against an impending crisis. It’s your role to empower managers down the line to ensure they make the best possible decisions. You also need to adhere to processes like keeping employees safe, well-informed and behaving in an ethical manner towards customers. 

One of the highest priorities on the list is taking your company remote-first during the crisis. If you work in construction, I can’t imagine you can take your work home with you. But, let’s say that own or manage an e-commerce store with a distribution center. After two months, you may have noticed that a lot of in-house employees can do the same job from home. Your mandatory in-house employees will have a lot more spare time to perform tasks that can only be done in the office. 

Get Clear on Who’s Doing What

Great leadership means that you should be compassionate, provide stability and build genuine trust with each member of your team. In uncertain times, you also need to provide hope to your team and all of your employees. 

Building trust can be done in a few different ways but it should always start with active listening and then strong delegation. According to research by Gallup, only half of surveyed employees stated that they could clearly identify what was expected of them. Setting clear expectations about what’s required from your team, including the turnover time and their expectations of performance helps to build trust and solidify your relationship. 

Keep the Company Culture Ship Tight

Healthy company cultures are known to drive more productivity from the company’s employees and also to maximize ROI. But, how exactly do you stop or mitigate a toxic company culture from surfacing at a time when many companies and employees are struggling to stay afloat. 

Progressive companies have cultures that put employee happiness at the core of their work ethic. Brian Lim, CEO of EmazingLights says “I am a big believer in our company culture and it takes lots of effort to keep it healthy and growing over time. Our culture committee creation in 2019 has been a great win for us as it gives team members the ability to participate in improving our company culture”. 

By prioritizing employees and their happiness, it systematically improves employee morale and engagement. Brian lets his own employees dictate some of the rules when improvising the company culture and this has proven a huge success during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Don’t Dismiss Self-care

It’s a pressing time for everyone, mentally and physically. Stress, anxiety and depression are increasing due to solitary remote work and lack of social interaction. Depression affects around 16 million people in the United States and the figures are projected to rise during the global pandemic. 

The number one cause of stress is occupational pressure, according to the American Institute of Stress. Prior to COVID-19, some of the most successful businesses were allowing employees to take self-care days to avoid mental exhaustion and burnout. 

It’s important to implement a self-care strategy that ties into your reformed company culture. Consider these tips by SleepRelief.org

  • Grant your employees the ability to grow, develop and shift within job roles, if they are more suited to another role, allow them to take on responsibilities from that role and transition.
  • Establish a clear vision with how success can be achieved and make sure it’s conveyed to all of your employees. 
  • Provide employees with work they find meaningful, challenging and satisfied. Also, make your employees aware of how their work contributes to the bigger picture of the entire company. 

It’s important not to dismiss self-care in a time like this. Your employees need to find purpose in their work but they also need time to recuperate and digest everything that’s going on in their lives. 


Leadership is all about building trust and giving your team hope when they’re faced with challenges. The global crisis has provided significant challenges across all industries but it’s essential to create a strategy that puts your employees at the center. Focus on your company culture, employee happiness and how you can overcome problems together.