5 Ways to Become a Better Leader During Tough Times

April 6, 2020
Life Coaching

The world changed, seemingly overnight and now we’re left in the aftermath, feeling stuck with so much uncertainty and too many unknowns.

Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed, having trouble sleeping, and finding yourself without good coping mechanisms. Maybe you’re doing your best to avoid the news, focusing on the day to day, seeking comfort in a hundred small ways. 

There’s no right or wrong way to feel in this moment, and everyone’s reactions are vastly different -- a single scroll through your social media feeds proves the point.

No one can prepare for a world-wide event like this. We can all do our best to prepare for a snowstorm or for heavy rains or for a drought. But sometimes, things happen that are just so much bigger than us. The fact that everyone is experiencing the same things means we’re in a remarkable period of transition, together. Our communal grit and resilience is being tested far beyond our usual comfort levels.

With so many unknowns, it’s sometimes hard to see what’s required of us as leaders and coaches. How does one lead when also dealing with something so complex and new and unprecedented? And most importantly, how do you take care of yourself so that you have something left to give those who need it most?

Acknowledge the reality that no one has lived through this

Acknowledging our strange new reality, and being gentle on yourself and on others is the first step. When you acknowledge the reality that no one has lived through something like this, you relieve the stress and pressure of needing to have all the answers. No one does, so why should you?

Most of us feel pressure when a major roadblock happens, and feel the weight of being a solid backbone as people lean on us for support. 

Be kind and know that everyone is affected by this in different ways. Everyone has their own ways of coping and everyone needs support in different arenas. As more people implement some form of mutual aid and care, it’s beautiful to see that we can all be one another’s support system. Understand what different people are going through, and allow people to deal with their emotions at their own pace -- everyone is different, with different amounts of resilience, grit, compassion, empathy.

Communicate with transparency

Communication also plays a vital role especially in times like this. As a leader and a coach, you may be expected to say the good or “right” thing. You may be expected to be the beacon of hope. That expectation may come from clients, and it may come from within.

It’s okay to show up authentically now and always. It is never wrong to say, “Hey, this situation is starting to affect me emotionally.” Leadership during crisis doesn’t mean you have to preach empty words of strength that you don’t feel. It means you can be honest as humanly possible, while still sharing hope and resilience in your words, or waiting until you have a message you want to share with others. Instead of feeling like you need to jump in right away or staying completely silent out of fear of saying the wrong thing, realize that others may WANT to hear from you, may NEED to know that they’re not alone in their feelings and thoughts -- take the pressure off yourself and show up as you are.

Hold space for others to come to you

In connection with the prior tool of communication and staying transparent, another tool we have as coaches is holding space. Now more than ever, we need to remind our friends, loved ones, and clients that we are here for them. This is not so you can be the hero; this is simply called being a good leader. It’s important to balance holding space for others and holding space for yourself. 

Does this mean you have to be available for your clients or friends 24/7? No. But this means you are extra vocal and you make it a point that they are reminded that you welcome their thoughts and are there to listen, whenever needed. 

Be sure they know you genuinely want to hear from them. Holding space for others to come to you is so important because, during tough times like this, people tend to feel alone and isolated. That’s true more than ever with our physical disconnect from one another. People are stuck at home and may think everyone’s busy or minding their own business and dealing with their own individual problems that come with this pandemic. 

Be vocal that you truly want to hear from your team, your clients, your co-workers, and listen deeply and without judgment when others do seek you out. Be a safe space and a soft landing for others.

Be resilient and open to change

Because the circumstances of this pandemic is so new, no one really knows how to deal with it. There’s no handbook out there that says “How To Deal With Coronavirus For Your Business.” (Well, okay there’s a few hastily thrown together ones that people seem to be peddling all over town.) 

Be resilient but also be open to new and creative, maybe innovative ways of dealing with things. Welcome ideas from every good source. Welcome whatever the universe sends your way. While it is good to have a solid, step-by-step plan, it’s just not possible to have that for something totally new and we may be taking things one day at a time. 

We build resilience by experiencing and surviving difficult situations, it’s similar to building a muscle. This is the time to flex your skills on openness and resilience, holding everything loosely as we move forward.

Do what you say you’ll do and when you say you’ll do it

Consistency is key, and it’s the basis of all trust and loyalty. Take listening to others as an example. When you say you are willing to listen to others, when you tell your team you welcome their thoughts, do exactly that. Listen and welcome them. People need some constants, some stability --  show others that you mean what you say and that you will do what you say you’ll do. 

It’s not just your compassionate heart talking, but your responsible leadership as well. Because as a good coach, even during a crisis, it’s our job to show up when we say we will show up and be there for our clients and for others however we can. 

We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to have a solid solution. But we need to show up and do what we say we’ll do as leaders and as coaches.

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