How to Overcome a Leadership Crisis

A leadership crisis occurs when people stop believing or trusting those who lead them. It happens frequently today and is at the base of instability in many organizations and countries.
How to Overcome a Leadership Crisis
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 09 November, 2022

A leadership crisis occurs when the individual in charge of a group no longer has any authority or it’s continually questioned. In other words, the guidelines they offer aren’t followed. It’s usually either because members pay no attention to them or because the guidelines the leader provides are controversial.

Unfortunately, this is a really common situation in today’s world. Even the World Economic Forum has made reference to the issue in recent years. In fact, leadership crises have been identified in different companies, not only because workers don’t trust their managers, but managers also don’t trust the workers.

The effects of a leadership crisis are extremely negative. The first, and most obvious, is the hindrance to the achievement of the goals of a group or an organization. In addition, an atmosphere of predisposition to conflict is created and the potential for errors or negligence is increased. Ultimately, there’s a general overall deterioration.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

-John Quincy Adams-

Man with work stress
A crisis of leadership usually leads to demotivation.

Signs of a crisis of leadership

Sometimes, a leadership crisis is obvious. It happens when a group openly ignores the instructions of their leader or refuses to follow them. However, in most cases, it’s more of an underground situation that’s only detected by certain signs and signals that we must learn how to read.

Some of these signs are as follows:

  • Critical conversations. People who are part of the group or organization frequently comment on the mistakes of their leader, or refer to them critically.
  • Distance. There’s no fluid communication between the leader and their group. Furthermore, interactions are brief and strictly limited to specific aspects of the job or tasks.
  • Frictions and conflicts. Disagreements frequently arise, especially regarding the leader’s decisions. Moreover, they aren’t resolved harmoniously but are usually ‘solved’ with some kind of imposition.
  • Authoritarianism. An authoritarian leader is a leader in crisis. When an individual has genuine ascendancy over the group they lead, they don’t need to assert their power to enforce their decisions.

The consequences

The usual consequence of a leadership crisis is widespread demotivation. The workers’ interest in their performance begins to decrease. In fact, they usually end up doing only what’s strictly necessary. They have no desire to improve and inertia prevails.

Moreover, negative attitudes toward the group’s work begin to proliferate. Complaints become frequent, along with apathy and the desire to stop being part of the group or the organization. This not only happens in companies but also in countries.

Added together, it all generates instability. People leave or separate from the group on a regular basis. In companies, it translates into a high turnover of personnel, and in countries, in emigration or continuous protests. Unsurprisingly, no one wins in these types of situations.

partner hating another
Instability is one of the main consequences of a leadership crisis.

How to overcome it?

In the face of a leadership crisis, the most important thing is to recognize that it exists. As much as the leader may feel that they’ve done their job really well, they must attend to the concrete facts and not to their own perceptions. If they admit that there’s a crisis, they can overcome it.

The most appropriate measures to overcome this type of crisis are the following:

  • Recognize the value and effort of the group. The leader should focus on the virtues and achievements of the members of the group and talk to them about them. This will help bring about a change in their attitudes.
  • Accept mistakes. They should undertake a self-critical exercise and present the results to the group. This doesn’t deteriorate their image but builds trust.
  • Empower group members. Power must be shared. Not only does it make the job easier, but it also engages people in positive change.
  • Conflict resolution. They must promote a sincere and democratic dialogue to detect existing conflicts and overcome them based on communication and agreement.
  • Promote dialogue and diversity. Differences are enriching. In fact, stimulating the expression of divergent opinions, listening, and learning from others are some of the aspects that identify a true leader.

A leadership crisis starts to be overcome when the leader changes their approach and attitude. After all, behind these situations lies a broken link between the group and its adviser. Any work must focus on repairing that rupture.

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  • Escalada, R. A. (2013). Sobre lo que está en Crisis del Liderazgo (Doctoral dissertation, Universidad Nacional de Rosario).
  • Salvador-Ferrer, C. M. (2021). Motivación de logro y metas en la vida: Rol mediador de la inteligencia emocional. Electronic Journal of Research in Education Psychology19(53), 1-18.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.