How to Lead in Times of Crisis and Uncertainty

crisis management

4 min read

With the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, change is inevitable. No one knows how long this novel outbreak will last or how bad it will be. Because of that, we must learn how to lead in uncertain times.

Business leaders are facing serious challenges, worrying about the pandemic’s impact on their companies and how to manage their employees and clients as the environment changes. Each of us is learning how to control our reactions to the crisis. Now is the time when we must show resilience. And, we must be that focused, emotionally intelligent leader.

If your employees trust your judgment, they will follow you. With the right approach, the crisis can be an opportunity to learn and grow—and come out stronger on the other side.

We wanted to share with you excerpts from this blog, Now That You Have Your Crisis, What Do You Change?, that Andi Simon, a corporate anthropologist and management consultant, shared with MGA. You can read more of Andi’s thinking at or listen her podcast at

Remember that this is not just you. All humans hate to change.

We prefer to live our lives in a habit-driven way. What we did yesterday is far more comfortable then trying to do something different tomorrow. Your brain and your employees' brains are fighting you, resisting the demands that they work from home or not hang out with their friends or not play pickup basketball.

How are you going to convince them to embrace the changes and help implement them instead of resisting them? Here are several ideas coming from brain research. Each is good on its own but together, they give you a process to help you change yourself and your folks. They aren’t hard, they're basically common sense, and they reflect a leader with a high emotional intelligent quotient (like you know what you are doing, so do it!).

7 Ways to Handle This Crisis as an Effective and Trustworthy Leader

1. Show that you are empathetic. Say “I feel your pain…” and let your staff know you care about them. Don’t shoot down their pain. If you just push past it, you are not a very emotionally intelligent leader. You are just an autocrat. Begin with empathy. Remember, people decide from their hearts and then their heads kick in.

2. Be self-aware of what you are saying and doing. Don’t be casual or glib. Think carefully about what you are communicating. Show self-confidence.

3. Be trustworthy. Whatever you say you are going to do, do it. Be accountable. Use whatever happens next as a learning experience, not a blame-and-complain situation.

4. This is a time for optimism. I know and you know you are concerned. If you are in business, you are worried about your clients and your cash flow. If you are now taking care of children at home from school, you are uncertain about what you will do to home school them. Forget the worries. Pretend you know. Being positive is contagious. But be honest when you don’t know something and then together, figure out solutions. You will be amazed how people will come together to help each other.

5. People are awkward doing something new. They need some practice. Everything they are doing now might be totally unfamiliar to them. They don’t want to say “I don’t know how to…” so you should be ready to say, “Let me show you…” That might mean helping them download Zoom or GoToMeeting, or teaching them how to use Skype for virtual meetings. Give them practice time with a coach who can show them how, not criticize them for not knowing. This is very important. This is a time for helping, not hurting, others.

6. Working from home might sound easy. It isn’t. If you have kids at home, what will you do so they get their homework done while you get your work done? It is time for a new routine. Set up a schedule and get them to write down what they are going to do when. Hold them accountable—yes, kids can be accountable, too.

7. Celebrate at the end of every day. People need to get positive feedback that assures them that they are on their way somewhere and it is in the right direction. This is new territory for all of us, and it is scary. You will find that a little cheerleading goes a long way.

The Times Are Changing in Ways You Had Not Anticipated

Prepare for a long period of disruption and be willing to create a new “normal.” Think ahead while you are coping with the moment. It will help you make better decisions. Whatever you do, use these uncertain times to learn about how to change in a crisis. And then hold onto those learnings when your world returns to a more normal time. You will be well-trained to lead in changing times in the future. You're being tested but if you're willing to let go of the old and embrace the new, you and your business can both come out on top.

The MGA team is here to help your business plan through these challenging times.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can help you do just that.

March 23, 2020