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Leadership in Times of Crisis

Updated: Jul 8

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In the face of a crisis, leadership becomes more crucial than ever. The challenges that arise can range from natural disasters and economic downturns to global pandemics and organizational disruptions. Effective leadership during such times can mean the difference between merely surviving and thriving. Here’s how leaders can navigate through crises with resilience and strength.

1. Stay Calm and Composed

The first rule of leadership in a crisis is to remain calm. Panic is contagious, and as a leader, your demeanour sets the tone for your team. By maintaining composure, you can think more clearly, make better decisions, and provide the stability your team needs. Calmness breeds confidence and helps to reduce the overall anxiety within the organization.

2. Communicate Transparently

Clear, consistent, and honest communication is essential during a crisis. People look to their leaders for guidance and reassurance. Being transparent about the situation, the steps being taken to address it, and the potential outcomes helps to build trust. Regular updates and an open line of communication can alleviate fears and keep everyone informed and engaged.

3. Demonstrate Empathy and Support

Crises often bring about stress and uncertainty for everyone involved. Showing empathy and understanding towards your team members’ concerns and challenges is vital. Leaders should be approachable, listen actively, and offer support where needed. This not only helps to maintain morale but also fosters a sense of unity and collaboration.

4. Adapt and Be Flexible

Crises are unpredictable, and plans may need to change rapidly. Effective leaders are adaptable and open to new strategies and solutions. This might involve pivoting business models, reallocating resources, or adopting new technologies. Flexibility allows leaders to navigate through the uncertainties and emerge stronger.

5. Make Decisive Decisions

In times of crisis, delays in decision-making can exacerbate problems. Leaders must be able to assess situations quickly and make informed, decisive actions. This requires a balance of confidence and caution, considering both short-term needs and long-term implications. Decisive leadership instills confidence and provides direction for the team.

Sometimes team dynamics mean having to have difficult workplace conversations. To find some great tips on how to structure these conversations why not check out this previous blog post 'Use the B.E.E.F Model to Correct Employee Behaviour'

Or check out our online course

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6. Focus on Values and Vision

During a crisis, it’s easy to lose sight of long-term goals and core values. However, it’s these very values and vision that should guide leaders through turbulent times. Staying true to the organization’s mission and principles can provide a sense of purpose and direction. It also helps in making decisions that are aligned with the broader goals and ethical standards.

7. Empower Your Team

Great leaders understand the importance of leveraging their team’s strengths. During a crisis, empowering team members to take initiative and contribute their expertise can lead to innovative solutions and shared responsibility. Encouraging collaboration and fostering a culture of trust can enhance the collective resilience and effectiveness of the team.

8. Reflect and Learn

Once the immediate crisis has passed, it’s crucial to reflect on what happened and what can be learned from the experience. Conducting a thorough review can provide insights into what worked well and what didn’t, helping to better prepare for future challenges. Continuous learning and improvement are hallmarks of strong leadership.


Leadership in times of crisis is not just about managing the immediate situation but also about guiding your organization through uncertainty with integrity, empathy, and strategic vision. By staying calm, communicating effectively, showing empathy, being adaptable, making decisive decisions, focusing on values, empowering your team, and reflecting on the experience, leaders can navigate crises successfully and emerge stronger.

Embracing these principles not only helps in overcoming the immediate challenges but also builds a resilient organization ready to face future adversities with confidence and grace.

Staying calm under pressure and addressing issues around challenging behaviour at work proactively when they occur and not letting them fester in one of the key topics my co-author Ken Cameron and I talk about in our 5 Star Amazon book 'I Need To F***ing Talk To You - The Art Of Navigating Difficult Workplace Conversations'

You can now order copies of our book here.

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"Sometimes conversations suck, but you need to have them, and this book lays out how. Russell and Ken have put together and road-tested simple, up-front, and thoughtful approaches to awkward and difficult workplace conversations."

Andrew Phung, CBC's Kim's Convenience

I hope you found this blog useful. As you continue your leadership journey, don't forget that here at Bluegem Learning we are always here to assist you.

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If you'd like to hear more from business leaders about handing difficult workplace conversations, check out our podcast here, new episodes bi-weekly ...

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Well that's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed the blog and I'll be back soon with more, until then ... be a leader not just a boss!

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