Golden Rules For Leading During A Crisis

In uncertain times, people turn to their leaders – whether national, community, or business – for reassurance and direction.

Share this article

Share this article

In uncertain times, people turn to their leaders – whether national, community, or business – for reassurance and direction.


Golden Rules For Leading During A Crisis

In uncertain times, people turn to their leaders – whether national, community, or business – for reassurance and direction.

Share this article

Leaders help their teams dig deep and stay focused, despite their anxieties, so that they can make it through a crisis together.

At the helm of businesses facing unprecedented challenges, strong leadership can be the difference between making it through tough times and going bust – but what makes a ‘good’ leader in a crisis?

Communication is more crucial than ever 

Building a culture of honest, straightforward, and empathic communication within the company is a defining feature of good leadership. A leader cannot create this culture alone since it requires buy-in at every level, but they can lead by example.

In a crisis, when everyone is under additional stress and maybe questioning the company’s future and their job security, it is more important than ever to communicate in a clear and considerate way.

Teams need a regular opportunity to meet where they can speak frankly with leaders. These meetings provide an opportunity for leaders to recognise hard work and individual sacrifice and ensure that everyone understands the latest developments, and for employees to raise concerns.

It is also essential that leaders are directly approachable, as some issues may be important but not relevant or appropriate to bring up during the team meeting. Overall, employees who trust that their leader is treating them with dignity and taking their anxieties seriously are far more likely to go the extra mile, which is currently more critical than ever.

Remain focused on customer service

Customers affected by a crisis will almost certainly adjust their requirements with little warning. Effective leadership means understanding these shifting needs and deftly planning a strategy to meet or exceed them. While the ongoing quality of the products or services you offer are a team effort, many of the decisions that separate ‘good’ from ‘great’ customer service are made at the top.

The foundation of outstanding customer service is a detailed understanding of the client, their situation, and what they need from your business. This information is frequently conveyed in meetings between leaders, but when an unexpected situation develops, these meetings can sometimes fall by the wayside.

To maintain your company’s focus on customer service, you must reach out and communicate with your clients to understand how their needs are developing and what you can do to help. Happier customers are more likely to stick with your company, and this is particularly true during hard times when they may be looking for reasons to cut costs.

Be prepared to pivot:

Decisiveness is a critical trait for a leader, as it allows them to pre-empt potential issues and seize opportunities. The skill of confidently making the right decision under pressure is particularly pertinent since shifting circumstances don’t allow decision-makers the usual amount of time or level of assuredness.

A crisis is also an opportunity for leaders to evaluate the company’s focus and goals, and careful examination of the trends can be the impetus to pivot to meet a new market need. For example, as a young start-up in 2001, Bullhorn leaders spotted the opportunity to turn the original product – an online marketplace for creatives – into a software platform for staffing firms.

This decision resulted in the company’s success in a vertical market, which in turn kept the company from burning capital in the next recession in 2008.

As we emerge into the post-pandemic world, many industries will find that the landscape has shifted significantly to reveal new challenges and opportunities.

Leaders who can review the trends and spot the new opportunities, and agile enough to pivot their organisation to face them, will have a significant advantage over their competitors during the recovery.

Short term pain, long term gain

Leaders, especially at younger companies or companies which are struggling, often need to face personal hardship in the short-term for the long-term success of the business. This may mean long hours and sleepless nights, additional stress or taking a diminished salary. Still, these personal sacrifices may be the difference between the success and failure of the business.

Leaders who genuinely believe in the company can put their doubts and discomfort aside, driven by the belief that it will pay off in the long run. For instance, when Bullhorn was still a 2-year-old start-up in 2001, executives worked only for equity and customer-funded their way out of the recession.

This bet on the company’s future success allowed the company to make it through a crisis, and leadership’s faith in the company yielded dividends in the long term.

Periods of extreme stress or sacrifice for the leadership should be sprints, not marathons, and it helps to know that the end is in sight – although that isn’t always an option.

Regardless of the duration of challenging circumstances, leaders need to look out for their health and wellbeing. That means making an extra effort to take breaks and time away from work, however brief, and trying to stick to a routine.

Leading through a crisis and beyond 

As we gradually emerge from lockdown into a new business reality, leaders will need to steer their organisations through a potentially challenging recovery period. The responsibility to plan for this falls upon leaders.

They must consider how to rally their teams and keep them motivated as they navigate business challenges and continue to deliver to clients. More important than any individual plan, however, is the ability to adapt and remain motivated as the situation changes, which will be the most important leadership quality in the coming months.

Peter Linas is EVP of Corporate Development & International, Bullhorn.

Related Articles
Get news to your inbox
Trending articles on Opinions

Golden Rules For Leading During A Crisis

Share this article