Leadership During Crisis

Last updated: Jan 17, 2023

Growing up in Tarpon Springs, Florida, I would hear stories about the sponge boat crews working the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. Out on the water—sometimes for weeks at a time—the best crews were able to navigate daunting challenges: equipment failures, illness, and stormy weather, to name but a few. Skilled leadership was necessary. “A good captain is not made from calm seas,” one veteran sponger liked to say. And with the “rough seas” we’re having as of late, that old sailing adage has been on my mind.

In a crisis, crucial elements for leadership must exist—and it begins with trust. Having the trust of your team is always critical but, now, the need is certainly amplified. This is due to the rapid and pronounced nature of change great difficulties present. Procedures and plans from not very long ago might now be out the window. Your vision to transition will be followed because of the good credit you’ve earned as a leader. Your team knows what you’re about and will confidently go with you because of its trust.   


One of the key reasons your team will trust you is your ability to be honest. It’s healthy to communicate the reality of conditions to your team members. Remain truthful with them. Remember, it’s okay to recognize feelings of fear and doubt during volatile periods. Still, however, state what’s happening in an open, transparent way. A crisis is no time to candy-coat matters. Staying honest through severe challenges communicates your integrity as a manager and the respect you have for your team.  


manager speaking to team member over a virtual call

But honesty doesn’t preclude hope! With tough times, I have learned, there is usually room for optimism. It’s important for a leader to assess opportunities for resilience and growth—even during abrupt changes spurred by a crisis. And as a trusted leader, your team wants to share that optimism. It might also be a time to make bold decisions. The present situation has induced our team to swiftly move on a couple of projects that were merely concepts just a few months ago—and we’re excited for it.


In some way or another, we’ve all experienced the effects of the current pandemic. It hasn’t been easy! But if you have the privilege of leading people in your line of work, be like the captain whose mettle is warranted through capable handling of rough seas. Your leadership can also shine during turbulence. By maintaining trust, honesty, and optimism, you’ll exude the qualities to weather temporary hardships and possibly come through them in favorable shape.