Crisis can Make a Bad Leader into a Great Leader

By Lolly Daskal

Times of crisis are inherently challenging and difficult—but they also present great opportunities for leaders to grow. That’s especially true in the present. One of the many changes brought by the pandemic is that old-style control-and-command leadership is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

A largely virtual workforce has a high level of autonomy, and leaders are faced with more variables than they can possibly control. With their habitual styles of leadership no longer viable, more and more leaders are finding that change is the order of the day. It’s a perfect time for growth. Here are some points to remember during this moment of opportunity:

In crisis leaders can engage. If your leadership before was all about control, now it should be more about engagement—being curious about your people and learning not just what they’re doing but how they’re doing. It’s time to take off the tight reins, loosen the grips and build points of connection, because that’s where the real power of great leadership begins.

In crisis leaders can pay close attention. If you’ve always been one of those bosses who didn’t really listen, now is the time to start tuning in. People don’t want to feel that they’re wasting their time or their concerns are unheard. Give voice to your people and encourage them to speak their mind, then listen to understand and to learn. In times like this you need the benefit of everyone’s thoughts and ideas.

In crisis leaders can support. If support and advocacy haven’t been part of your leadership style up till now, you need to incorporate them immediately. Especially in times of crisis, people need support and encouragement from their leaders. If you don’t know how to begin, try asking your employees a basic question: What do you need from me, and how can I be of help? In that simple inquiry is the beginning of a positive new norm.

In crisis leaders can celebrate and benefit from diversity. In an ideal workplace, everyone works from their own perspective in a way that leverages their knowledge, skills and abilities. In other words, people bring their diversity to work, and different ways at arriving at great results are celebrated. But many leaders fail to take full advantage of diversity and instead try to impose a rigid way of doing things on everyone. The current moment, with its need for new processes and perspectives in every area, is a perfect opportunity for people to explore working together in new ways that incorporate diversity and recognize its extraordinary value.

Difficult as they are, times of trouble present an opportunity for people to bond together in new ways. Even if you’d evaluate your leadership so far as mediocre bordering on bad, you now have an opportunity to make it great.

Lead from within: In crisis people tend to come together in new ways, and leaders can rewrite the status quo so that taking care of one another becomes the norm.

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