Six Lessons for Leadership in Crisis and Beyond

The onset of the coronavirus crisis presented an unprecedented challenge for leaders. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve spoken with over 50 CEOs from a range of industries about how they navigate uncertainty, find creative ways to manage in the new normal and maintain their own positivity so they can lead with optimism, courage and compassion for others. Based on these conversations, I’ve summarized learnings to help leaders bring out the best in themselves and others the next normal and beyond.

What I’ve found is that CEOs realized two things. First, a crisis really exposes the strengths and weaknesses of your company culture. Companies that had always invested in bringing positive values to life and building inclusive cultures are coping much better during this crisis. A positive and inclusive workplace culture is a catalyst for success in good times and strength during difficult times.

Second, CEOs realized that the leadership behaviors they were compelled to exhibit during this crisis are behaviors that should be exhibited in all times. Now the question on their minds is, how to maintain behaviors that had a positive impact during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic so they become ingrained in the workplace culture. As we are learning, after all, is that the skills that became critical for leading in the “new normal” marked by change, uncertainty and ambiguity will continue to be critical in the “next normal” as change, uncertainty and a continue.

Best Practices for Leading During a Crisis and Beyond

  • Put people first. Now is the time to put the wellbeing of employees and customers first. In times of crisis, people are afraid and want to know you care. Simply asking, “How are you?” makes a huge difference.
  • Invest in your own self-care. As a leader, people feed off of your attitude so do whatever works to maintain your calm and optimism. Techniques shared range from exercise to watching Netflix, finding the joy and humor in every day, practicing gratitude and getting enough sleep.
  • Rely on your team. You’re not in this alone, so no need to try to be a superhero. Engage others to develop solutions and inform decisions. This is the time to embrace diverse perspectives and encourage different ideas to inform solutions.
  • Take one day at a time. It is okay to not have answers when you don’t know what the future holds. Strive to take one day at a time and forge ahead with doing the most right thing each day. Draw upon company values to guide your decisions.
  • Provide clear, concise and consistent communication. People want trusted and relevant information. Yet, information overload causes stress and anxiety. Synthesize information for others and share what is most pertinent. Communicate in a consistent format to provide a sense of assurance and certainty when so much else feels out of control.
  • Think upward, onward and inward. Use this time as a challenge to innovate and consider how to reset, rethink, rebrand or regroup to emerge from the crisis stronger. Reflect on what you are learning about yourself, the business and the company culture and integrate those insights into how you will operate differently to be better.

Click here to download my free “Next Normal Kit for Leaders” for easy to implement tips to develop these skill so you can effectively lead in the next normal.

Let's Connect

Beth Ridley is a former corporate executive turned organizational transformation consultant, speaker and author. Beth combines 25 years of global leadership and management consulting experience with expertise in diversity and inclusion and positive psychology to partner with leaders to transform workplace cultures to better achieve their vision and goals. Beth’s work is featured in national publications and she frequently delivers keynotes and workshops at events around the world. Beth lives with her husband and three children in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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