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Critical Skills Needed To Lead During Times Of Crisis

When a crisis arises, it often separates the good leaders from the poor ones. As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc around the globe, business leaders are tasked to manage somehow the adversity left in its wake. This adversity has manifested itself in various ways, ranging from new health and safety priorities to serious fiscal woes. In times of crisis, we rely on our leaders to forge a path through the chaos, but what skills serve them best? The following are among the most critical leadership skills that signify a great leader.

Ability to Adapt

Being an agent of change is among the essential leadership skills. Good leaders adapt quickly when a situation calls for action. They aren’t afraid to shift gears to ensure desired outcomes. Each week, medical researchers seem to learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic; as a consequence, recommendations continue to change. Business leaders who can respond and change quickly with guidelines demonstrate an ability to act on sound information to protect both employees and customers.

Change is difficult, but leaders who can adapt to new situations such as those presented by the pandemic are more likely to pave a path to success than leaders who are unable–or unwilling–to adapt.  We don’t have to look too far to see the effects of the pandemic in Mexico, Brazil and even the USA with their President’s adaptability or lack of.

Understand the Nature of Urgency

Great leaders don’t necessarily charge full-throttle into a fray, but they are aware that many situations demand quick decision making and action. Caution has its place, but when urgency is demanded, great leaders don’t wait too long to respond to the situation. Yet, quick action must be accompanied by quick thinking. A good leader must respond to a crisis not only quickly but also think on their feet to make the best decisions under current circumstances.

Maintain a Balance of Reason and Emotion

You’ll hear it said that the best leaders have ice in their veins, but you’ll also listen to it reported that great leaders are empathetic. So which is it? Are good leaders cold-blooded or emotionally in tune? In actuality, it’s both. The best leaders are balanced. They are empathic and able to relate to their colleagues and customers. Still, they’re also able to compartmentalize their emotions when they need to make tough decisions that must be governed by sound reason or fiscal sense. When a leader’s mind and emotion are well balanced, they generally make the right decisions regarding the well-being of their business and those who work for them.

Listens and Learns

A great leader understands their limitations. In a crisis, they know that much is beyond their control. To combat the chaos, they listen and learn from others. They need to listen to the advice of experts. They need to empower members of their team and be able to act on their advice. The wisest leaders know that they don’t know everything but are determined to obtain the knowledge they need to make informed decisions.


Great leaders are honest with themselves and those around them. To be truly effective as a leader, they must trust the people who work for them. Leaders have to be honest about the situation they find themselves in so they can make the best decisions in those critical moments. In a crisis like the pandemic, leaders must be able to articulate what they know and do not know to make decisions based on facts and not merely their assumptions.

Excellent Communication Skills

Adversity or no adversity, good leaders are good communicators. In a time of crisis, however, communication is an essential priority. What’s unique about the COVID-19 pandemic is that leaders have been tasked to find new ways to communicate with workers and customers as offices move to remote work models or temporarily close. Great leaders must be able to articulate their plans and to delegate clearly in their speech and their writing.

Positive Influencer

Leaders can’t do it all. They need their teams for support. A great leader, however, can inspire and motivate their employees as well as to empower them also to manage workplace challenges effectively. With a positive influence on their team, good leaders win the confidence of those around them, creating a team-wide response to adversity. By inspiring employees to be their best, they’re able to bring everyone in their organization together at a time when working as a team is so critical.

These are some of the most crucial leadership skills that today’s business leaders must cultivate to ride out challenges like the current coronavirus pandemic. By coming to terms with your weaknesses in these areas, you can find ways to overcome them so that you’ll be a better leader when adversity strikes.

Get in Touch with an Expert

At Barbachano International, we understand how important these human resource issues are for companies that operate globally. Feel free to contact us or visit our blog.

By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano

By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano

President and CEO of Barbachano International (BIP),

The Human Capital Solutions leader in Mexico, Latin America, and the USA, offering high-impact executive search, executive coaching, and outplacement.

Barbachano International (BIP) is the premier executive search and leadership advisory firm in the Americas (USA, Mexico, Latin America, & Canada) with a focus on diversity and multicultural target markets. Since 1992, BIP and its affiliates have served over 50% of Fortune 500 Companies and have been recognized by Forbes as a Top 40 executive search firm. Outplacement and Executive Coaching services are provided by our sister allied company Challenger Gray & Christmas. We are supported by our NPAworldwide partner offices in over 50 countries.



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