Do’s and Don’ts of Crisis Leadership


Whether you’re the owner of a big firm or the manager of a neighborhood store, you made a promise to lead your team through good times and bad. Decisions, of course, come much easier in good times. During times of crisis, the challenges you face are often completely outside of your control. Your response, however, is not. Crisis leadership is the art of leading a team through unforeseeable circumstances with unpredictable outcomes. Follow these do’s and don’ts of crisis leadership to help your team through difficult times.

Do’s of Crisis Leadership

Tell the truth. During times of crisis, people crave – and deserve – the truth. Even if the news is grim, be honest about what people can expect from you and the company. It’s okay if you aren’t able to give a full picture or answer everyone’s questions. It’s better to say “I don’t know” than to give false information.

Show concern for employees’ situations. When your team members feel like everything is outside of their control, it can set their minds at ease just to be asked “How can I help you?” or “What is your greatest need right now?” Even if you are not able to deliver on their requests, your genuine concern will validate their feelings.

Think outside the box. Responding to a crisis requires you to consider strategies you may have never thought about before. You don’t have to go it alone. Ask for input and feedback from your team and consider all options.

Take action, even when it’s hard. For many people, a significant crisis may be paralyzing. Leaders don’t have the option of doing nothing. Once you’ve listened to your team and considered all available options, take action as quickly as you can.

Don’ts of Crisis Leadership

Don’t shut yourself off. Leaders need to be seen during a crisis. Although you may feel like you want to lock yourself in a room until you figure out all the answers, it’s important you remain visible to your team.

Don’t pretend you’re invincible. A crisis affects everyone in highly personal ways that go far beyond what’s happening with your business. Be honest with your team about your own concerns and fears.

Don’t resist change. You can not expect to get through any type of crisis without facing change, often significant change. Flexibility is often the key to crisis leadership.

Don’t lose sight of the big picture. Crisis leadership demands you deal with the here and now, but there will still be a “later.” You must plan for that, too.

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