Seven Keys to Leadership during the Coronavirus Crisis

We don't want leaders who improvise, nor narcissistic leaders who just see problems and don't generate solutions. In a context like the present one, we need skillful, effective leaders who are capable of anticipating needs and, above all, empathetic and humane leadership. What are the keys to leadership during the coronavirus crisis?
Seven Keys to Leadership during the Coronavirus Crisis
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

In difficult times, skillful, effective, and, above all, humane leadership is needed the most. But let’s admit it, very few are prepared to take on such a challenge in a scenario like the present one. Wear and tear, criticism, and questioning can be draining. But what are the keys to leadership during the coronavirus crisis? How should a good leader act? Are there any key strategies in this regard?

The answer is yes. In fact, these skills would actually serve health safety experts, political leaders, organizational managers, communications chiefs, and any manager of a large or small business equally well.

The key strategy isn’t to improvise and not to fall into narcissistic perspectives and behaviors like some we’ve seen lately.

Here’s an example. Something that many of our public figures should stop repeating is how nobody could have foreseen something like this or how they’re just following the advice of the experts. When a leader drifts into this style of communication, it creates more uncertainty and mistrust.

Moreover, we’ve also witnessed other extreme stances, like some who’ve said: “This virus isn’t going to affect us here. Let’s live a normal life and stimulate the economy”.

Aleksandr Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, told his people that “It’s better to die on your feet than to die on your knees”. And López Obrador, the president of Mexico, encouraged his people to go out to eat in restaurants. We could give dozens of examples of bad leadership that, like another virus, has spread around the world in recent weeks.

Below, discover the strategies we should look out for in a situation like the one we’re currently experiencing.

A woman with a mask.

Seven keys to leadership during the coronavirus crisis

The current context is a continuous breeding ground for uncertainty, anxiety, and fear. Every concern is legitimate and understandable. Every sign of anguish is genuine and acceptable. However, one thing that every leader must be clear about is that the last thing they must do is create more confusion.

Leadership requires, right now, knowing how to walk through a minefield. No more, no less. A good leader should understand that any bad step, bad message, or mistake will cause the ground to shake and society to lose its balance.

The impact of these mistakes can be serious. Thus, it’s a priority to know the keys of leadership during the coronavirus crisis.

1. Calm and honesty

No matter how serious the situation. No matter how negative the short and long term forecasts are. In the midst of any scenario, a leader must convey calm and be completely honest with what they’re conveying.

Temperance gives security to the listener. In addition, in a context of distress, that attitude is valuable.

Likewise, few things are as important as honesty at all times. Misrepresenting facts or resorting to lies is another time bomb that, in the end, will also cause a lot of damage.

2. A leader needs a competent empowered team

If a leader has a competent team, they’ll show greater solvency and confidence. If all the decision-making and communication capacity falls on the leader, then we’re looking at authoritarian behavior patterns that can, and usually do, create mistrust and even hate. This is quite simply not the right way to go.

A good leader is simply one more figure within a team. In that core team, there must be competent and key people who work strategically to address any problems in the current context.

3. Good communication, a key factor

The way any leader should act during the coronavirus crisis is through a core tool: good communication. And let’s be clear, in the current circumstances, this isn’t easy. If that leader is overly charismatic, it’ll generate distrust. If they’re excessively cold, they’ll arouse fear and suspicion.

They need to find a balance between these extremes in order to create trust and respect. Their communication shouldn’t consist of frills and catchphrases – only accurate, clear words devoid of doubts and ambiguity.

Knowing how to convey bad news and warnings and combine all of this with the breath of hope undoubtedly requires great emotional intelligence and assertiveness.

4. Compassion and humanity

Narcissistic, hyperbolic, and authoritarian leadership has no place in a pandemic scenario. Neither does a critical leader who likes to blame others. One who only knows how to point out the problems and errors of others, thus promoting chaos. We don’t need these types of leaders.

At the present time, we need compassionate leadership. We need leadership that’s capable of connecting with human pain, shows its concern for people, and seeks to focus on the answers to problems rather than on seeking blame.

5. Sense of community, openness, and collaboration

To understand how a leader should act during the coronavirus crisis, one thing must be clear: all adversity needs action. That’s why a key strategy will be to activate resources, people, and to build bridges with other communities, regions, and countries.

A good leader must know how to ask for help and to offer it. They must be open and create collaborative networks where resources, ideas, and information can flow.

6. Effectiveness, rectification, and resolution

Every crisis demands daily progress. If there’s no progress, then something is wrong. That’s why the leader and their team must monitor their progress, detect errors, solve them, anticipate risks, and innovate, every minute of the day.

A united team.

7. Anticipate and be prepared for other crises

In the last of our keys to leadership, we’re going to highlight anticipation. Those who don’t anticipate, improvise. Those who don’t prepare for the worst won’t be able to react even to minor problems. Anticipating, preventing, devising, designing, and engineering strategies to respond to similar situations in the future is another moral and strategic obligation of any leader.

Let’s be clear, there are many ways to react to adversities like the current pandemic. However, leaders during this crisis must always be decisive. They shouldn’t leave anything to chance and fall into improvisation. Now, more than ever, what truly matters is humanity, not politics.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.