What People Need Most from Their Leaders in Times of Crisis

There is a piece of content making its way around on social media right now that summarizes what every leader needs to remember as we endure this strange time in our history.

“We are all in the same boat—but we are not all in the same storm.

For some people, it’s sprinkling. This is a break. It’s a breather. It’s a rest. A time to reconnect with their families. Honestly, it’s kind of peaceful.

For some, it’s a storm. It’s a bit scary. It’s disruptive. It’s enough to make you stay up and watch the news and worry a bit.

For some, it’s a hurricane. It’s tearing at the boards. It’s pulling off the roof. It’s washing them out to sea. It’s dark and unknown. It’s life changing.

It’s not wrong to be enjoying a sprinkle or enduring a storm. Rest with your family. But don’t minimize the hurricane engulfing your neighbor. Laugh at a meme but get on your knees for those in the hurricane.”

For me personally, I am not stressed. Our organization is in a storm, as revenue is down during this time of social distancing, but I know people who have it far worse. I know people who’ve lost their jobs. I know several who’ve been infected. I have a friend who lost a friend.

More than 6.6 million American’s filed for unemployment over the past week. This is more than any single week during the Great Recession (2008) and feels more like the Great Depression (1929) according to people who lived during that time. New York City has already lost more people to the coronavirus than the city lost on September 11, 2001 during the terrorist attack. Dr. Anthony Fauci, from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, suggested we should never shake hands with anyone again.

What a strange time.

What Do People Need from Their Leader Most?

Leaders must remember first and foremost that people under their care have very different temperaments and will react to these times differently. Be careful to not minimize the angst others are feeling, while at the same time being a source of steady hope. People need three items most from their leader during this season. They spell the word: CAB. I tell myself to jump in a CAB every day I am interacting with others:


It’s easy for people to watch the news all day and get freaked out. They feel angst from all the bad news and the uncertainty this season. Good leaders provide context to problems. This is not the worst crisis we have ever faced and yet it deserves our focused attention. Context means you furnish perspective on what’s happening; you stay knowledgeable on current details and you become a source of wisdom especially for those who fall on either end of the spectrum: those who feel it’s no big deal and those who feel like the sky is falling.


People usually need leaders to offer practical action steps during this time. It may sound silly, but sometimes grown adults need reminders of the applications we’ve been given to respond to COVID-19 well: wash your hands many times a day, stay six feet apart from others in public, wear a mask outside and shelter in place. The best leaders leave people with clear applications for their day. In fact, clarity is the greatest gift a leader can offer their team right now.


Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Leaders are dealers in hope.” I believe we owe it to our people in uncertain times to offer belief and hope for a better future. This season will one day pass and we may just return to a better normal. I actually believe this. Americans, once polarized in recent times, are now cooperating and focusing on helping each other. We are applauding health care professionals and first responders. We will get through this and be better for it.

How to Host Conversations Remotely…

1. Personal items before business items. If they know you care about their personal life, they’ll feel secure enough to focus on team business. Talk about personal wellbeing, then the team.

2. Hard conversations before easy ones. I’ve found it’s better to begin by handling the tough stuff, maybe even the bad news, before you get into the easy or good news. Hard then easy.

3. Big picture before smaller details. Providing the big picture allows any personality to place details into proper perspective. Give them the box top, then show where their puzzle piece fits.

Let’s go lead our teams and the emerging generation well.

What People Need Most from Their Leaders in Times of Crisis