August 12, 2020

In uncertain times, what makes a good leader?

As someone that manages a large human resources team, I understand the importance of strong leadership. And, an even greater leader comes to the fore in uncertain times. They reassure, motivate and inspire during tough situations, providing the right amount of support and ongoing guidance. Working in HR has made me realise how much COVID-19 has tested many businesses, managers and leaders. If you head up team, what are you doing right now to instil leadership? I’ve put together a guide of six things great leaders do and how you can apply it to day-to-day business during these precarious times.

HR Tip 1: Acknowledge reality

As we’ve seen during the COVID crisis, the best leaders have been the ones who admit what’s happening and acknowledge the scale of the challenge they face. They don’t engage in obfuscation, lying or magical thinking. And, leaving people in the dark means, people can’t see what’s coming until it’s too late.

What does this mean for you?

Admit that COVID-19 is impacting your business. If you’re suffering or finding the situation challenging, ensure your employees are up-to-date with the situation. They won’t just thank you for it; they may also have insightful views on how to help.

HR Tip 2: Be decisive but not divisive

In a crisis, doing nothing is simply not an option. You need to act, and you need to act fast. The best leaders do this while taking their team along with them. Bad leaders blame others, foster division and make decisions without consulting.

What does this mean for you?

As a leader, be prepared to make hard decisions and be prepared to explain why you need to make them. Don’t look for scapegoats; your suffering is no one’s fault. Be compassionate and remember that COVID-19 was beyond the control of anyone in your business.

HR Tip 3: Get expert advice

It’s impossible to know everything and have the right answers. That’s why great leaders are also great listeners and open to asking questions. That doesn’t mean they’re avoiding responsibility – in fact, this is far from it. A leader that takes time to get the right answers from experts around them is smart decision making.

What does this mean for you?

Make sure you’re not alone in this – tap into the expertise of your leadership team. Just understand that each team member will be coming at the issue from different perspectives.

HR Tip 4: Lay a clear roadmap

In a crisis, the best leader is one that prepares a plan and is comfortable enough to share it with their team. They’ve explained their reasoning, told everyone what they’re collectively trying to achieve and then provides concrete steps for when action will be taken. The worst leaders have are the ones who muddle along without a vision, assuring people it will be ‘okay’ and changing their opinion on a whim.

What does this mean for you?

Let everyone know exactly where you’re heading, what’s changed and what will happen next. When people know where they stand, they’re likely to be less anxious and more productive. And, they’ll have goals to work towards as part of a broader team.

HR Tip 5: Acknowledge mistakes or a change of plan

That said, uncertain times are, well, uncertain. New information comes to hand regularly that can change our view and make us reconsider what we’re doing. For example, restrictions are changing on a weekly basis and vary from state to state. When this happens, those great leaders acknowledge what’s changed and explain why a different approach is needed.

What does this mean for you?

We all make bad calls, especially when we don’t have all the information at hand. If you recognise you’ve made a mistake admit, explain and move on.

HR Tip 6: Keep up the communication

Finally, the best leaders choose to keep lines of communication open. They provide regular updates, check-in regularly with their teams and ensure that all are aware of their future plans. They don’t go missing and leave employees in the dark – even when things get really bad.

What does this mean for you?

Keeping up the conversation and continuing an open door policy builds trust and rapport between a leader and their team. In a crisis, there’s no such thing as overcommunicating.

Are you a leader, ready to take charge?

Have any questions about leading teams through a crisis or need assistance with putting together a communication strategy for your organisation? We’d love to help. Feel free to reach out to the Catalina Consultant team today.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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