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Some say this crisis is merely good training for the next one. While we have no way of knowing what that next crisis might be, one thing is for sure — the current coronavirus crisis has shifted the way we work and will have lasting repercussions.
There are leadership lessons to be learned from bad situations, and strong leaders know that opportunity and innovation lie at the heart of any disruption or dramatic change. When this crisis is over, many of the lessons below might become standard business practice, so it’s worth taking notes on the many insights we have gathered. What was previously unthinkable in the workplace, is now possible, and has highlighted the resilience of the human spirit. We asked 66 CEOs and executives how they are leading from home and how they manage to inspire their teams from a distance. There’s a lot of advice here, so be sure to take a break (wash your hands) and return later. You can add your own solutions in the comments section.
1. Rob Schwartz, CEO of TBWA\Chiat\Day NY
My advice is to over-communicate to ensure employees feel connected in these uncertain and stressful times. Each Friday I write what’s called, “The Friday Email.” I’ve been doing this every Friday, without fail save for a Christmas Holiday or two. In the mail I try to capture the week. Now more than ever I realize its benefits.
My best advice to anyone in leadership is to control what you can. You can control your attitude. You can be optimistic. You can also do your best to be patient and empathetic with your clients and your staff, as we are all dealing with this same crazy storm. Clients are looking at immediate crisis plans. We are also starting to think about contingency and recovery plans. And we are looking at how we can help our clients think things through strategically and creatively.
2. Sachin Gupta, CEO of HackerEarth
Communicating, communicating, communicating – We are taking proactive steps to communicate consistently. It’s extremely important for not just the CEO, but the entire leadership team to constantly check-in and communicate with the entire team across product, sales, and marketing. Working from home can result in isolation and can be extremely challenging for teams that are accustomed to sitting together and being able to simply turn their chair around to talk with a co-worker.
Providing transparency – Situations like this are having a measurable impact on businesses everywhere. People know this and it creates uncertainty in their minds. As CEO along with the entire executive team, we are working to openly communicate with all team members, tell them what (if any) impact this will have on our business and how are we going to deal with it moving forward.
Showing empathy – Working remotely, combined with the fear of infection can be psychologically draining. It’s super important for leadership to show empathy in times like this. We are committed to enabling team members to deliver results and empathize if they are struggling with anything.
Creating a sense of normalcy – A situation like this is bound to create panic. Being locked up at home and thinking only about your safety can easily drive people crazy, hence it’s important to keep people engaged. While we are doing it with empathy, we are also working to create balance around moving ahead with business as usual. Keeping people engaged and working helps keep people’s minds off the negative news all of the time.
3. Jeffrey Hayzlett, Chairman & CEO of C-Suite Network
It’s a tough time and things can be grim but it’s always important to mitigate fears and boost moral; I fight fear with humor. I always reconnect and realign my team with the company’s core values. This inspires business continuity and quells issues that arise from a decentralized team. It’s important to lead by example when crisis arises and leaders should reach out to their networks — concentric circles of trusted groups you belong to, such as associations, masterminds and coaching groups. Through networking, leaders can help one another with strategies to help lead their teams through times of crisis.No matter how small, do what you can to demonstrate a hero mentality and hero leadership through challenging times. It’s important to be a shining light that supports others in a time of crisis.
4. Zach Maurides, Founder and CEO of Teamworks
We are rallying around our mission to engage and empower athletes now more than ever. Our mission is unchanged. Why we do what we do is unchanged, but some of our employees’ jobs have changed dramatically. We have implemented daily wellness checks as part of our communications routine to ensure our staff are physically, mentally and emotionally well. Similarly, we often take for granted the time we’re able to interact throughout the day when we’re in the same building. We are making a conscious effort to be intentional about connecting and engaging with one another by spending five minutes on every call to catch up on things outside of work – everything from funny things our kids did today to new recipes.
5. Zain Jaffer, Founder and CEO of Zain Ventures
During this unprecedented and traumatic time, true leaders can boost morale and best motivate their teams by reminding them of the importance of what they do every day and by expressing their gratitude for that work. Everyone wants to know that what they do matters and that they are part of something bigger and more meaningful to the world. To stave off the apathy and feelings of disconnection that can accompany remote working situations, leaders should communicate why the company exists and what value each employee provides. When we are isolated and trying to work remotely, it’s easy for employees to forget why they do what they do. By articulating our gratitude, we increase employee engagement levels, improve productivity and promote proactiveness.
6. Kevin Gyolai, President of Gyolai Consulting
Leading during a crisis is about standing up and modeling the behavior that will get you through it. Being vulnerable and human while also demonstrating an unflappable resolve and calm. I am focusing my teams on the few things that truly matter to get through this outbreak, which are the same things that determine the success of the company in the best of times. In partnership with my leadership team, I created a roadmap for the next 90 days that aligns our crisis response with our current business priorities. I then I asked my people, “How would you go about accomplishing this?” They have the answers, not me.
7. Shannon DeJong, Founder & CEO of House of Who
I communicate with my remote team via Slack using daily letters – and even more frequently if the news warrants it. These letters include advice on physical, mental and spiritual wellness, not just “work.” It’s all connected. Reassure your team of the security they have with you now, while being realistic about the future. For example, in the branding industry we potentially lag in times like these, so to calm any worries, I let them know it might be a slower in Q2 or Q3, but are well prepared and will fulfill their contracts.
8. Sam Caucci, CEO and Founder of 1Huddle
Most companies have solidified the mindset of switching over to a more remote workforce in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In times like these, investing in more emailing, conference call lines, and webinar platforms are not enough. Companies need to be investing in solutions that prevent digital isolation and use this time to help reinforce organizational priorities in a way that inspires their workforce.
As the CEO of a technology company that uses games to keep workers engaged and prepared, we have seen a greater demand for solutions to help workers that are on-the-go. This means turning to strategies and solutions that allow them to: Rapidly communicate with their team, keep everyone up-to-speed while being fun and interactive, strengthen culture and community even while being remote, educate their team on how to effectively lead and operate under remote work conditions and bring staff together with shared objectives while not all being in the same place Instead of giving up on employees, it is time to lean in and support them while keeping them engaged and connected through the transition using the right tools.
9. Paul Nick, CEO of Guaranteed Returns
When a company experiences something like this, the first thought for many is layoffs. However, good leaders know that their employees are their most important asset. Build and maintain a strong workforce, and together a company can weather any storm. I have worked tirelessly to maintain as much of the workforce as possible and personally knows each employee. I maintain a close-knit workforce that is willing to go above and beyond for every client and colleague. When difficult times hit, it’s the foundation, strength and commitment of our employees that allow us to survive.
10. Michael Brody-Waite, CEO and Author
Practice Rigorous Authenticity — Be real with your team and go first by sharing what your fears are during this time, instead of pretending you have it all figured out or have all the answers.
Surrender the Outcome — Exclusively focus on the things you CAN control, such as how you remain in communication with your team and prioritize self-care, versus the things you CAN’T, like the economy.
Do Uncomfortable Work — During times like these, leaders will benefit from leaning into the uncomfortable and emotional work instead of hiding in the “hard work” of their to-do lists and emails.
11. Karla Jo Helms, Chief Evangelist for JoTo PR Disruptors
As CEO of an international agency we piloted and pioneered a remote workforce 5 years ago, so many of the issues our clients and colleagues are presently experiencing, we are not. In times of crisis, a leader has to keep his/her team “in the present,” and that can be very hard to do without major structure and a strict production demand. I have developed a Crisis Org Board, outlining what “hat” each person will wear. Once everyone knows their “crisis role” we then determine what the major production will be for the business and how to go about it. We don’t use the crisis to sit back and wait to be told what to do, we use it to proactively take action and keep our people industrious and helping others. We help the media tell real-time stories with data from our clients, so our purpose is to help get news out to millions of people. Giving our team a strong purpose keeps them in the moment.
12. Chris Hirst, Global CEO of Havas Creative
Wash your hands. No seriously. The most important thing any of us can do right now is break the chain.
Over communicate and be visible. Distance working can quickly become disorienting, your teams will want to see you and feel regular emotional reassurance and get practical direction
Keep a routine and keep everybody busy. The military know this well – whatever is happening their teams are always active: working, doing, thinking, learning, socialising and innovating. A good leader keeps the team on the move (even if virtually)
Being at work isn’t all about work. Working in an office is about more than sitting in meetings: it’s chatting, socialising, pub-quizzes, Pilates, laughing and making friends. Don’t forget to find ways to do some of this remotely – technology makes it easier than ever.
Don’t Panic. Follow the advice on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (if you haven’t read it – it’s perfect for quarantine). Douglas Adam’s prescient 1980’s novel had written on the cover in large, bold type: DON’T PANIC
13. Adrian Gostick, CEO of The Culture Works
In our company, we are ending each day by posting something on our favorite social media channel that we are grateful for— it might a coworker who helped us during the day; maybe it’s the sunrise or our kids or pets; or it could be that a client reached out to ask how we were doing. In times of challenge, keeping our teams motivated and optimistic is more vital than ever. By withholding our gratitude, we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. In stressful times, we are often not conscientious enough of all the many people who are helping us. When we are more aware and more thankful, our teams will be more engaged, focused, and productive.
14. Jayson DeMers, CEO of EmailAnalytics
The most important leadership quality during a time of crisis is transparency. Honesty and truth-telling are hallmarks of transparency, so be honest with your team as you make changes during a time of crisis such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Next, lead by example, and communicate effectively with each member of your team. Communicate how you want your employees to communicate, listen to their concerns, and provide feedback as you steer your team through the crisis. Good leaders maintain transparency and effective communication through times of crisis, and they lead by example.
15. Kevin Crawford, Former Fire Chief In Time of Crisis
Extraordinary leaders need to be the “Comforter and Chief“ to give great hope, and have a steady hand to keep responses appropriate. People tend to allow crisis and hysteria to outpace the emergency; when that is done, you’re in a freefall and the emergency is running you, and you’re not running the emergency. The most important thing for new leaders is clear headedness and accuracy of the emergency. Oftentimes, the cure can be worse than the disease, and CEOs have a responsibility to manage psyche of people around them.
CEOs need to manage people’s emotional wellbeing and psyche during this crisis, in addition to manage the technical aspects of the business. CEOs don’t do a good job of recognizing that they need to be the deep rudder for the humanity in any organization. CEOs need to understand they’re in the business of psychology and they are pseudo sociologists for their organizations. If you want to lead any organization and see it rise to ultimate potential, you must wear that hat. In times of crisis, it’s even more important.
16. Laura Spawn, CEO and co-founder of Virtual Vocations
In times of crisis, leaders are most effective when they communicate clearly and openly with their teams about the status of business operations, potential effects of the crisis on employee jobs, and any changes in work expectations. Good leaders provide this direction while also understanding the need to support individual employees and their unique circumstances.
Establishing a central method of communication as soon as possible is also vital, as is relaying a message — either through the official capacity of an executive or via managers — that the company is supportive of assisting employees through the crisis and that leaders are doing whatever they can to mitigate its effects on employees.
17. Leeza Hoyt, CEO of The Hoyt Organization
Transparency is the key to communicating with everyone, whether it be employees, customers, shareholders or suppliers. It’s OK to say you don’t know. Currently, no one actually knows exactly what will happen. That said, it’s critical to convey that management is making the best decisions they can, given the information they have at the time. Are you closing? If so, what does that look like? Where can people get services? Will you be setting up an 800 number for questions? Don’t forget to use your website and update it frequently.
As this situation continues, updates should be scheduled regularly, depending on the group. For example, employees may feel more comfortable with a once-a-week communication that serves as a weekly update, after the initial communication has been disseminated. For other audiences, it may be every few weeks – depending on how long the situation lasts, or even once a month. Remember, this too, will eventually pass but setting up these types of communications infrastructure now will serve your company well into the future.
18. Debra Benton, President of Benton Management Resources
Don’t give advice, set an example. Good leadership is always helpful to others without worrying how it affects your job. To thine own self be true. Don’t try to be something you are not, now, compared to your leadership style that has been working. Drastic change in behavior scares people. Be and show confidence because no one will follow you if you don’t have it. Be very mature but mostly very secure. Never fail to smile in person or online. Be honest to establish the true reputation of being honest because leaders do well with truthful information flow (virtual or in person). Let others come up with the good idea with your savvily directed questions. You add, “I hadn’t thought of it that way…is that what you want…” Delegate and trust. Loose every argument you can afford without doing damage to the ship. Remember you are trying build a team here. Winning an argument only does damage. If it turns out good give them ALL the credit. If it turns out bad, take ALL the blame.
19. Jennifer McCollum, CEO of Linkage
A Purposeful Leader must inspire, engage, innovate, achieve, and become. Here’s what I mean by that and how I’m putting these into play at Linkage:
Inspire: At Linkage, our teams are focused on near-term activities that align to our purpose and strategy. We are supporting leaders in critical leadership development programs even as travel and budgets contract. We’re rapidly bringing flexibility in delivery and contracting, so our clients can continue executing critical initiatives to ready their high-potential leaders.
Engage: At Linkage, I recently implemented a dynamic, new process for inter-team collaboration. We convene 18 leaders from every function and business unit multiple times a week to participate in “Special Attention Meetings,” where we share information, identify immediate needs, and work in cross-functional teams to resolve them. Topics covered at these meetings range from employee communication and business continuity plans, to financial impact and product innovation.
Innovate: Our team is currently exploring an alternative digital distribution of our conferences, which will require new capabilities around digital production. We are also accelerating the product release of our digital self-service offerings, with leadership development around effective leadership, advancing women and inclusion, in addition to the online learning opportunities we already offer. We are learning every day, focusing on what works, and staying agile.
Achieve: We realized over a 48-hour period that the external environment had shifted faster than we could respond. We immediately brought visibility to what decisions had to be made by the end of the day and identified who was responsible for them, regardless of reporting structure.
Become: Personally, I am striving to be a role model for my teams and my organization. It requires being calmer and more positive than anyone. It requires standing strong in our plan, until we can develop an even better plan. It requires telling the truth and communicating openly about information and decisions as soon as I can. It requires resilience.
20. Matt Rizzetta, Founder and CEO of North 6th Agency
As a corporate leader, you are representing your brand during a time of extreme uncertainty. Most businesses will be asking their employees to do more with less as they prepare for potential disruption from a crisis like COVID-19. As a leader you should set the right tone and roll up your sleeves; do the little things to show everyone that you’re willing to be just as scrappy as you’re asking anyone else to be. Even larger gestures like committing to a 50% salary reduction until the tides turn show that you are willing to do your part to preserve jobs and minimize fear and uneasiness for staff.
21. Dmytro Okunyev, Founder of Chanty
To keep my team focused during these tough times, I let them know every day that this is a phase and that together, we will pull through. This is a time for solidarity and compassion and I encourage my team to stick together. Everyone is already working from home and we have regular meetings to check up on everyday activities, but more importantly, to check on how they are doing mentally. It’s important to be there and be compassionate, even if it means doing something simple like making a video call.
22. Jamie Thomas, Executive Director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue
The problem with this pandemic is that if people start to panic about having an extra animal in their home and want to dump them, we aren’t structured that way and will really struggle to manage such an influx. Our building was never designed to be a “shelter” for animals to live and we don’t have staff/ volunteers trained to manage that. Many of the volunteers stopped coming as schools closed and they needed to stay home, or as they got sick. Trying to rally these people, or train new one’s, will be an exceptional challenge.
I remind people that we are all in the same boat — we have to do MORE now, not less. We ned to be there for each other. We will prevail and I will lead them without fear or panic and with the calm and collected demeanor I cheris. if people start freaking out, we will figure it out, but I have a faith in the high-quality individuals around me to stay strong. we have amazing people volunteering with us!
23. Jenna Cooper, Founder of C3 Collective
Live your company values and adhere to your mission during a crisis. It is a defining moment, which can, at times, make or break your company. As a leader, demonstrate who you are and remain consistent. One communication or statement won’t do it. Be transparent about your operations plus short and long-term goals. Above all, listen. At the end of the day, people want to be heard. Set up regular virtual meetings with managers, and have them do the same with their teams. And keep the camera ON. They need that human connection, not just a voice over their computer.
24. Shawn Johal, Entrepreneur & Business Growth Coach
There are tons of articles that suggest crisis times need a “stoic” leader who acts more than they speak. Action is necessary, but modern crises call for modern leadership: vulnerability, storytelling, and honest communication become extremely powerful tools. For leaders to best navigate COVID-19, communicating non-stop with teams is incredibly important. Speaking openly and sharing their own perspective helps employees feel less “in the dark” and, as a result, they feel less concerned for the future. Teams that receive non-stop engagement from their leaders will feel more equipped to work remotely, to navigate challenging scenarios, and to weather storms. Tell stories, share your thoughts, have honest conversations. People rally behind people; not robots.
25. Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, President and CEO of Do Good Work Consulting Group
As President and CEO, leading a dynamic team comprised of both on-site and remote staff now all working ‘remote-only,’ I am taking several steps to inspire my team that is now physically decentralized but must continue to work together virtually. Daily, I remind my team that we are ‘in this together’ and we must continue to stick together though threat of spreading/contracting coronavirus forces us apart; I clarify that we are practicing ‘physical distancing,’ NOT social distancing and we will stay connected emotionally.
Rather than deny or ignore signs of anxiety, I engage them and make time for us to talk openly about our concerns, fears, and worries. I affirm very directly the well-being of the company and our financial outlook — as openly as I can— especially since one of our major client bases (i.e., colleges, schools) has moved to ‘online-only’ classes and will likely find ways to end the academic year early. This is more than ‘pep talk’ — it’s real talk; I admit upfront to my team that I have no pre-existing script for working through this COVID-19 crisis and I’m ‘in it with them,’ but we’re working together to ‘build it as we fly’ and taking an abundance of caution to protect our beloved team, their families, communities, clients, and beyond. Through social media, text, and email, I offer tips for working from home and ways to avoid loneliness, since loneliness can be lethal.
26. Drew Stevens, CEO of StevensConsulting Group
This trying time is distinctly about leadership and communication. First, exemplary leaders will constantly and relentlessly communicate to staff about the vision of the organization, the core values and how these two must manifest to ensure delivery to the firms most imperative asset — customers. Secondly, leaders need to place calm and solace in their employees, As Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated during WWII, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Leaders can placate this by a) working side by side with employees, b) taking suggestions from employees that create efficiency c) maintaining the status quo and not allowing the bombardment of the press, social media, et. al. to damage the essential corporate culture.
27. Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, Founder of The Marriage Restoration Project
According to business coach, Todd Herman, CEOs separate themselves into three groups: the fear focused CEOs, the un-focused CEOs, and the strategy focused CEOs. The leaders that stand out take calm, collected level-headed thinking and action swifter than the rest. A common denominator of these leaders is that they have a daily meditation practice, that has been proven to keep people calm and stable amidst uncertainty. All businesses are experiencing a dip in revenue during this time of uncertainty and Tthe difference between those who make it and those who don’t will come down to decisive action and level headed thinking. Use this time as an opportunity for personal improvement and introspection. Come up with answers to what shifts you can make in your life and your business to be able to withstand this great test. This is what great leaders do.
28. Dave Molenda, Founder of Positive Polarity
- Try new things to adjust to the new normal.
- Connect in new ways.
- Adjust the attitude, as this WILL pass!
- Compliment someone every day.
- Keep your routine as much as possible!
29. Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful
First, be patient, understanding and accommodating. These times are scary enough; people don’t need an overbearing, angry boss yelling at them to work more and forget about everything else. Some employees may be fearful or simply overwhelmed by the situation, and if they need some time off of work to process it all, that time should be given. Many young people are experiencing a crisis like this for the first time in their lives.
At the same time, things need to be done to inspire and motivate workers even in times of distress. One way to do this is to assign small, achievable goals for employees to take on. Not only will this prevent employees from feeling overwhelmed, completing small goals rather than struggling through difficult tasks is a great way to motivate and encourage employees, and get them back into working mode.
30. Dr. Vince Molinaro, Founder and CEO of Leadership Contract
Hold others accountable for high standards of performance. Real leadership accountability is built on a foundation of strong standards and clear expectations. Tackle tough issues and make difficult decisions. These leaders have the courage to go after issues that other leaders avoid. By doing so, these issues don’t keep a company stuck nor does it impede strategy execution. Effectively communicate the strategy throughout the organization. This behavior is important because it helps teams and employees understand how their work contributes to making the company successful, in turn making each task more meaningful and rewarding. Express optimism about the company and its future. Accountable leaders are excited about the company and their leadership role. Their sense of optimism drives employee engagement. Display clarity about external trends in the business environment. Accountable leaders don’t have their “heads stuck in the sand”, or are not too internally focused. In contrast, they assess their environment for opportunities or identify threats and risks they can manage.
31. Mark Webster, Co-Founder of Authority Hacker
As a small, remote business, we’re in good footing to weather this storm, however, that doesn’t mean we intend to just sit back and ride it out. As sales inevitably begin to drop, it’s clear that focusing our efforts on sales related material is not the best thing to do as a company. What this means, however, is that we will have a good opportunity to really reflect on our business and its processes for a few months without the constant stress of trying to beat targets and push ourselves on that front.
Instead, we can look at how we can make things flow better throughout the company and make the small quality of life improvements instead so that when there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we’re back and ready than ever before. This is the perfect opportunity for this type of thing and to waste it worrying too much on the future would be a grave mistake in my opinion.
32. Carlos Castelán, Managing Director of The Navio Group
The primary concern during a time of crisis for leaders should always be around the health and safety of employees and customers. Once that has been addressed a great consideration is one that Jeff Bezos employees at Amazon when thinking about the long-term: “What won’t change?”
By thinking through what will not change whenever companies emerge from the crisis can help leaders inspire their teams to stay focused and think beyond the moment. Focusing on what is likely to stay unchanged after the crisis such as products or services that customers might need – including social interaction after weeks or months of a quarantine – can help Executives work with their teams to prepare while better serving employees and, in turn, customers.
33. Josh Brenner, CEO of Vettery
It takes a lot of trust to set your remote employees free and count on them to continue performing outside of the conventional work environment. Once you define your expectations and communication methods, leave the rest up to your employees. If your team feels micromanaged, they’ll feel less motivated to complete assigned tasks efficiently and diligently. Trusting your team will gain you more respect and result in more productive work!
Be available. Remind your team that while they can’t pop over to your desk with quick questions or concerns, you are still fully reachable from home. Offer to hop on the phone or video chat whenever anything comes up – (over)communication is key! Employees want to trust that you’re still there as a resource and they have someone supporting them outside the office.
34. Tapan Patel, Co-founder of Third Rock Techkno
To keep the employees inspired, leaders must exhibit their tough, rational side that is capable of making bold decisions. On the other hand, it’s vital that your employees are convinced that you, as their leader, fully understand their fears about how the pandemic may affect their family and their personal lives.
As the fears of COVID-19 spread, the leaders at my organization chose to talk to our employees with the utmost transparency. We were honest in admitting that we don’t know everything about the crisis while also assuring them that we know enough to handle the situation well and take care of them. This contributed a lot to establishing trust amongst the teams.
I believe emotional intelligence, transparency, and empathy are the main attributes that can help leaders keep their employees motivated and calm during these fearful times of a pandemic.
35. Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com
Every Friday for the last few years we have made it a practice to send out an email to our entire team. This email typically sums up what various departments been working on throughout the week, solid press about our company, and upcoming events to look forward to, like company potlucks. Our company is located in Calabasas, California, where we have weathered our fair share of devastating wildfires (including the Woolsey Fire in 2018) and earthquakes. These emails have been incredibly valuable for keeping our entire team’s morale uplifted and positive. We will continue to send them out and believe in their power to keep us connected and optimistic as a team now more than ever.
36. Leonard Ang, CMO of EnKo Products
As leaders, we do our best to provide support to our teams by encouraging them and by establishing good communication. We want our employees to be able to work without any concerns or fears therefore, we always encourage them and guide them thru this crisis. We listen to their concerns and with the best of our abilities, we try to help them in any way. Our employees are our greatest asset and our company ensures that they are well taken care of at all times.
37. Aaron Velky, CEO & Co-Founder of Ortus Academy
Leaders don’t panic, but they do acknowledge fear and face it with their team together.They stand as the bottom of the pyramid and open their doors to listen to support their teams.
Vulnerability in the face of this is critical to leadership. Share with your team what you’re feeling and afraid of. Acknowledge that we’re all together. Listen to their fears and if you don’t have the answer, say so. But commit to figuring it out together.
We aren’t going to panic, but we are going to prepare. Preparation begins with immediate needs, then shifts to longer term as things get secured. Preparation might be more than just food – it could be technology to work from home, means to get things delivered, or borrowing office supplies for remote success.
Leadership is not a role, it’s a decision. While it may be hard, scary, difficult, or even costly, it’s a responsibility that straddles the choice. If you choose to show up for your team, show up fully, and lean in on one two and three to be humble enough to serve them.
38. Jan Bruce, CEO of meQuilibrium
For anyone managing people, this new business climate entails navigating much more than the actual impacts on the workforce, supply chain, and customer experience — it means keeping people focused, agile, and able to manage through fast-changing and adverse situations. Clearly, keeping your workforce resilient in this climate is going to be a challenge, but also an opportunity.
This is the time for leaders to step up and help people manage their own fears and panic, and thrive as best as they can. People are uncertain about the future, and that means they aren’t focused on being their best and perhaps doing their best. Resilient leaders may be the last defense in holding the line on business goals as well as the safety and well-being of their employees.
The bottom line for leaders: Recognize employees are wired to ”go negative.” It’s human nature to be afraid of spiders, tigers and the dark. Negativity tends to snowball, derail people and cascade into catastrophizing. Therefore it’s critical right now to practice and enforce realistic positivity so that even if we cannot control the situation, we can control our response to it.
39. Mikaela Kiner, Founder & CEO of Reverb
Organizations emulate their leaders, so it’s critical that leaders remain both calm and empathetic. Be transparent about the impact the virus is having on your business and set clear expectations about what will happen if you’re affected by the downturn. Acknowledge people’s feelings of uncertainty and anxiety and make sure they have mental health resources whether that’s through your EAP, coaching or counseling. Be vulnerable; people will appreciate your humanity and it also gives them permission to open up about how this is impacting them personally.
40. Kristin Wilson, Founder of Our DJ Rocks
My philosophy when I wake up each day is – COMPASSION. I have to lead with compassion. There won’t be one human who doesn’t directly feel the effects of the world around us, and it’s up to us to lead by example. This year we are celebrating our 10 year anniversary – where our theme is Love, Lead, Excel. We wanted to do a party this summer to help a charity that is close to our hearts, but we have put that on hold, but I still believe strongly in that theme. Love what we do, love our clients and love our event industry. Lead by example, and excel at it all.
41. Melissa Smith, Founder & CEO of Association of Virtual Assistants
Lead by first by showing you care for your employees. Don’t start with the company. Start with them. Address what you believe their biggest concern. Don’t hide from it. Share what you are working and share if you are receiving outside counseling. This is not a sign of weakness rather a sign of being innovative and looking for answers and to make the best decisions. Get and provide support. You are likely making some of the most crucial decisions you’ve ever had to make. Seek counsel. Get the quiet time you need even when it feels as though the opposite of how you should be spending your time right now. For your employees, make sure they have a place to get the counsel and support they need.
42. Christian Giordano, President of Mancini Duffy
More than ever, my job today as President of Mancini Duffy is to motivate our staff and keep them excited and engaged while working remotely. Every morning as we all log-in to our shared portal, I start the day by sharing an encouraging quote or a positive stat about our business with our team. To maintain our familial culture, we’re innovating new ways to continue fun, company happenings like our monthly T3’s, a themed “all-in” company meeting on the third Thursday of the month with themes like ‘80s, a faux wedding, mini golf, etc. to retain the warm company culture – in a new, digital way.
Visual communication is essential to me and our team, so we’re less about email right now instead I’m encouraging video conferences to see each other’s faces and create the much-needed humanity aspect to our business.
Finally, I encourage all of our employees to work in the manner that best suits them individually – for some that means staying in their PJs all day and I’m all in for whatever makes them feel most productive!
43. Ryan Floyd, Co-founder and MD of Storm Ventures
Working from home will be much harder to pull off than many realize. Managers need to think how to adjust, how to motivate and how to stay connected with their employees. At Storm, we are on Slack all day to stay connected as a team, which is new to us. I am really trying to get engagement. We are doing a daily video stand-up meeting. We will be doing work together but the idea of a video meeting is to get the chance to see each other. We are having a ‘virtual happy hour’ on Zoom on Fridays too, where we can socialise with a beer.
Businesses also need to be creative in how they adjust to customers. The buying process will be different and the discovery process may be different – how you engage and what resonates with them will be different. The world has shifted dramatically, so conducting business the way you did before blindly doesn’t make sense. Take advantage of the downtime to improve process, drive efficiency and figure out better ways to get your product or service to resonate with customers.
44. Trivinia Barber, Founder of Priority VA
Every leader will be faced with the choice to go inward in their own fear and panic, or be vulnerable with those they lead. Being honest about the uncertainties, while encouraging your team that you are there for them will be imperative. An “open door policy” has never mattered more in our companies. Resist the pull to act like you have it all together, and communicate with those you lead. Have group calls to let people express their concerns, and share ideas. This is not the time to further isolate, your team needs you as much as you need them.
45. Ollie Smith, CEO of Card Accounts
I am giving my team a purpose by supplying them with a vision of where we are going, including achievable goals they can focus on in the medium-term. I believe that by giving them something to look forward to and work towards, they will not feel isolation and know that there is a future for the team beyond this difficult period of time.
46. Alex Azoury, Founder & CEO of Home Grounds
It’s a tough time for everyone right now, but the least we can do as business leaders is keep our employees informed – and not rolling their eyes at false promises. What we’re doing is pivoting to radical transparency. We’re opening up the accounting books to show our employees how much runway we have. And, we’re doing our best to let people know if we’ll need to furlough, decrease work hours, etc. at least one month ahead of time.
You can still be a great leader from a distance. Your words and passion for your business can transcend being in the same room as your employees, if you allow it. Using the means you have for communication is vital, have daily meetings still, a video chat will still have the same effect on morale if you give people that boost that they need. Be understanding and helpful, people will no doubt be struggling at this time so you need to be the anchor. Help them to see that they will not fall, much like the business won’t.
48. Radosław Bułat, CEO & Co-Founder of Applover
To inspire our teams at Applover, we show them every day that we are still a team, that we work together. Besides the daily project calls, we often talk about non-work related subjects on Slack or Discord, we share our hobbies, life-hacks, and tips. We exchange knowledge and life experiences by offering support to every member of our team on a daily basis. They know that and are constantly assured that we will help them with every issue.
49. Mike Richards, Founder of Golf Einstein
If my experience with managing a remote team has taught me one thing it’s that sincere appreciation and effective coaching skills help make leading from a distance easier. Being vocal and praising hardworking employees is the easiest and most effective way of making each member feel part of the team and encourage them to do even better. With this being said, it’s also important to be there for struggling employees by messaging or emailing them guides and offering them advice and guide them along the way.
Maintaining open communication with your team members while valuing their growth, progress, and health not only uplifts them but can also empower them to improve and do better. These two simple things create an ideal work environment that makes your presence felt and appreciated. Remember, a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘how can I help you?’ goes a long way!
50. Joey Price, CEO of Jumpstart:HR
Leadership is a test in clarity, courage, and calm under chaos. MLK said it best: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” It is imperative to remember two things and lead your organization with them in mind: 1) People will remember how you responded to the crisis and that may determine whether they seek to stay employed at your organization once the crisis has been contained. 2) You aren’t expected to have all of the right answers, but empathy and triangulating ideas with bright minds will help lead you down the path in which you should go.
51. Rameez Ghayas Usmani, Digital Marketing Executive at PureVPN
Show your team the silver linings of working in isolation to keep them motivated. Make them aware of the perks of working from home — such as following no dress code and spending more time with family during this alarming situation. Analyze each individual’s personal interests and use these facts to keep them moving forward. For instance, I have an employee who loves cars and I always tell him to work hard if he wants to drive his own Nissan GTR. Reassure them that working from home in isolation will not only allow them to avoid less interaction with people but also allows you to look after their family. I always urge my team to listen to motivational lectures and read books to keep their motivation levels high. Let them know that they are important to the company and their existence matters. Show them the reason to stay motivated.
52. David Reischer, CEO of LegalAdvice.com
Sincere relationships with subordinates is the essence of authentic leadership. An authentic leader has good listening skills. They will consider all ideas with an open mind and change their opinion only if the arguments make sense. An authentic leader is transparent and honest. Authentic leaders believe in open communication and make sure to combine their directness with empathy. The image they project in public is not drastically different from how they really are in private. They don’t hide their mistakes and weaknesses, and have the courage to actually be who they really are. Finally, authentic leaders are consistent. They are principled and behave on a consistent manner that is not going to be moved by trivialities.
53. Charlie Worrall, Digital Marketing Executive at Imaginaire
Checking in on your team members is one of the most important things you can do as a leader and even a business owner. Or it takes a few minutes on the phone or even a video chat so that you can keep up-to-date on how they’re doing and whether they’re okay working from home. At this point, if they’re not okay that’s where you can actually intervene and offer some guidance or need help. That might mean they need an extra monitor to stay productive or just a few tips on how to stay on task and not get distracted. Rather than penalizing them if you’re not being as productive as usual help them to get there and be supportive instead.
54. Anh Trinh, Managing Editor of GeekWithLaptop
As a CEO it’s my job to ensure that my company runs smoothly despite the coronavirus pandemic. I sent my employees home and gave them their 13th check in advance to ensure that they have extra enough money to feed themselves for a month. I also gave them assurances that the company will still have a place for infected employees once this coronavirus fiasco has ended. Medical supplies and food may be scarce during this pandemic, but goodwill and assurances are in plenty of supply, which is why I advise leaders to spread goodwill during these trying times.
55. David Gasparyan, President of Phonexa
The most important action for a business and a leader to take in the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus is to ensure the health and well-being of employees and the community-at-large. That is why in the early stages of the virus spread we created a company policy regarding hand-washing and our “stay home if you’re sick” policy to let our team know that our top priority is their safety. As we have joined many others in promoting social distancing by working from home, I have reminded our staff how resilient we are as individuals and as a company. In this new reality, we press on and maintain service to our clients while doing our part to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of this virus.
56. Patty Carl, President of Highland Performance Solutions
CEOs and leaders who are navigating this situation successfully are actively engaging their teams. Businesses have never encountered the unique challenges presented by COVID-19, and leaders do not have easy answers – by bringing a broad set of leaders together to brainstorm solutions, they’re able to crowdsource the best ideas, understand and respond to internal and external forces more quickly and effectively. Businesses who are able to unite their organizations creatively during difficult times can hope to emerge from the crisis a stronger, more connected organization.
57. Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls
In times of uncertainty or crisis, here are the top qualities in an effective leader:
Integrity — strong moral compass, honest, good character are not negotiable. Humility — the best leaders I know are humble. Sense of Humor — this is a nice to have but great when times are tough if they do not take themselves too seriously. Smart — not just book sense but common sense too. Positive and high energy — they do not have to be optimists but I find pessimists to be too negative, they should be upbeat but realistic.
58. Carol Guess, Chair of the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
I have utilized the phrase “teamwork makes the dream work” in order to maintain the sense of camaraderie that pervades our physical work space. Staff now see that being a team is not defined by physical space, but instead, a mindset. A leader has to possess fortitude to endure and inspire the same in his or her team. A leader should also possess great character to show their team that they care about each team member personally and is working to create great solutions for their survival and that of the business.
59. Pegah Ebrahimi, COO of Cisco Collaboration
In these times, it’s critical that as leaders we step up and over communicate and be present more than ever, both in providing continuous direction and praising our teams. Stay connected with your teams and help them focus on what they can control and not focus on the fear and uncertainty. And lots of gratitude and praise — there are some things in life that truly have no limit and praise is one of them. Life still continues for our families, our communities and our customers, and as leaders in collaboration we can have a massive impact for them. And when I can, I try to throw some humor in too to balance out the negativity and remind us all that we’re in this same boat together, and we will come out of this stronger and better.
60. Ray Zinn, Author & Longest Serving CEO in Silicon Valley
Leadership qualities needed during a crisis are three fold where first, you practice servant leadership and your job is to serve your employees, not the other way around. In this way, employees will feel that you have their backs especially important during a crisis. Second, communicate, communicate, communicate where you reiterate the mission and how it will be achieved, especially critical during a crisis when employees may be easily distracted. Third, share the burden so if employees take pay cuts, make sure yours is twice as deep as those who work for you. In all that you do, from servant leadership to sharing the burden, make sure your teams know you are all in this together.
61. Scot Chisolm, Co-founder and CEO of Classy
Adaptive: In this time a leader needs to adapt to ever-changing situations and be able to pivot quickly. Being more nimble will be vital during these unprecedented times. For example, a leader may need to learn a new technology that allows them to communicate regularly with their team. At Classy we use Slack, Google Hangouts and even Zoom – where we recently hosted a 200 person virtual cheers in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
Transparent: While each type of business is going through their own struggles, team members need to see that their leaders have confidence in a positive outcome. While you don’t want to sugar coat things to the point of not being honest or transparent, it’s important leaders bring a sense of positivity to the workplace during these challenging times.
Empathetic: Each person deals with crises differently and each team members’ situation is different. As leaders we need to be empathetic to individuals and remember they may be experiencing increased anxiety, having to work while homeschooling their children, or even dealing with a sick family member. Be flexible, allow employees to work from home, and try to put yourselves in their shoes.
62. Kean Graham, CEO & Founder of MonetizeMore
Authenticity: Never tell others to do things you wouldn’t do yourself. An authentic leader leads by example and not by orders.. An authentic leadership company culture is empowered by the same work lifestyle that the founder has enabled for him or herself. An authentic leader is honest with their employees about what’s going on but inspires hope via a plan that can be followed by all employees including the leader.
63. Julie Myers Wood, CEO of Guidepost Solutions
We are transparent. There’s no established playbook for this circumstance. We are drawing on our experiences serving in government after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, but those experiences differ markedly from what we face here, and we can’t provide cookie cutter answers to these challenges.
We have communicated broadly that our decisions during this time are driven by two core principles – first, protecting our people, and then second, taking steps to protect our business so we can continue to assist our clients with their mission-critical needs.
We remember the person behind the job. A critical part of our leadership strategy is checking in on our colleagues who have kids or elderly parents, those who are in vulnerable health categories and those who are concerned for any reason. This helps demonstrate that we are all in this together and we recognize that this situation may be affecting each employee in a wide variety of ways.
We are including a wider group of leadership when making key decisions. These times may call for tough decisions and we are asking for input from a broader group of our key executives. This shared decision making process helps to ensure consensus and buy-in.
64. Michael Shapot, Associate at Compass
Quickly evaluate yourself and your key strengths, when the leader is in growth mode and aggressively learning then the leader is easier to follow, stirring up energy around learning creates excitement.
Speak with each of your key team members individually and ask them what is the next growth opportunity they see, before you share your ideas. Getting people to think adds energy to them and creates the motivation for them to learn.
Lead up quickly and become a “leader/follower” example. Give your team exercises to develop their thinking… such as, what 3 opportunities do you see from your position? Give them a day to see the opportunities. Then ask them questions around those opportunities. Idea compounding is the true team building.
Review profit together. Numbers regardless of their position give people an idea of where they stand. Fear is all about the unknown.
Become the model of your organization. People do not follow leaders, they follow models of the behavior. Fear is contagious and you can not expect people to pivot if the leader is not positive and in action.
65. Robin Throckmorton, President of Strategic HR inc.
The largest issue facing people right now is the lack of information and constant change of information that is increasing anxiety and fear. The best solution to decrease anxiety and fear is sincere communication that is open and transparent, which is how our business operates anyway. As the President, I’ve continued to make myself available to all employees in any mode that they want to communicate with me. And, when they do, they are my priority and focus to help them navigate and process all that is going on an how it applies to them. I try to share anything I know about what is taking place and how it impacts our business and team. Bottomline, be flexible, respond quickly and positively, listen to concerns and help navigate them, and reiterate best practices of washing your hands, taking care of yourself, etc.
66. Jon Rubinstein, Founder and CEO of Authentic Talent & Literary Management
The people who are leading companies during this time of worldwide crisis are just people, and we are dealing with the same fears and concerns as everyone else. While our entire staff is working from home and doing everything they can to support their clients and each other, we’re trying to keep our eyes on the future and not spend too much time dwelling in our own worries. How can we maintain stability for our employees and our clients, while ensuring their safety, and at the same time, fulfill on everything we have promised as a company? It requires a lot of communication; which is all about listening to what our team is dealing with and what they really care about. It also requires a huge commitment to what’s really possible for all of us moving forward.