10 Tips for How to Lead in a Crisis

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Last Updated on November 20, 2023 by Bill Truby

Do you know how to lead in a crisis?

One of our most powerful tutorials, “The Power in the Chair”, teaches us about the hidden powers in the leadership role.

These powers are exponentially increased when your team experiences a crisis. How you act and interact during a critical time for your team has a massive impact – during the threat AND after.

We certainly have been through some critical times, even life-threatening times, in the last year. Your leadership has been tested, I’m sure. It has probably changed – because it had to. Indeed, the very way we are interacting with our teams is different. Increased email traffic and virtual meetings have become a norm. Relationships have shifted – some for the better, and some have declined.

Hard times reveal. Like the often-used and always-relevant metaphor; it’s the heat that melts away the dross and reveals the gold – or lack thereof.

To ensure you get the “gold medal” of leadership, I’m giving you some tips as to how to lead in a crisis. At a crisis, these leadership/management actions are critical. But the truth is, they are also critical during threatening times, fearful times, or even when times have changed. Follow these ten tips and you’ll leverage your leadership into a positive impact.

1. Remain calm and objective- acknowledge and express feelings while maintaining a grounded demeanor.

2. Be motivational and inspirational – give messages that talk “through the crisis” and give hope.

3. Communicate more and often – even a message that “nothing has changed yet” is helpful. Less communication invites fear and assumptions.

4. Meet often – in hard times, people need to “huddle and cuddle” more.

5. Give the team something to do – even if it’s small, an achievement gives a sense of alignment and being in control.

6. Develop your team – ironically, during a crisis, the team is bonded more than ever. Use this opportunity to gently build a team dynamic.

7. Give people breaks and diversions – convince people to recognize the stress that may be draining them. Rotate people into critical positions. Sparingly use humor and diversion activities to redirect attention.

8. Celebrate and acknowledge – even in crisis, people need to have a sense of achievement and be appreciated for what they do.

9. Protect your team – acknowledge truth but guard them from unconfirmed rumors, or facts they don’t need to know.

10. Take care of YOU – remember the wisdom of the flight attendant, “Put YOUR oxygen mask on first before attempting to help someone else.”

These are just a few tips to follow when your team has been challenged by an unusual and powerful situation. You know your team best. Use knowledge and your wisdom to emphasize certain tips or create your own special areas of emphasis for your team.

And remember, a leader is often defined by his or her bad days; if there is ever a need for superb leadership, it is during times of fear, anxiety, and change.

Another very helpful tool to help with leading is a crisis is our free eBook: Instruction Guide – How to Rise Above Worry and Fear.

cover photo with a boat in a storm for the instruction guide for how to rise above worry and fear - focused on dealing with change

In this 31-page eBook you will:

  • Discover the unseen forces that knock you down when you experience a wave of change. You’ll completely understand what’s happening to you and your reaction
  • Learn how to watch for the behavior and attitude symptoms these forces cause – in you AND in others.
  • Learn a simple, three-step process to ride the turbulent wave of change…and survive. You’ll also learn how to help those around you.
  • Receive a bonus teaching on how the power of a leader really comes to play in times of crisis, and how that leader can make or break the people in their charge.

Request the free eBook here.

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This article was updated in November 2021.

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Bill Truby

Founder and President of Truby Achievements