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Unprecedented Turbulence: Leaders’ Responses to the COVID Pandemic

People and organizations were significantly disrupted by the COVID pandemic. Decision-makers and companies experienced great strain and pressures due to unprecedented changes. Organizations had to operate in an unstable, unpredictable environment. Leaders had to make rapid decisions, modify expectations, attend to the social-emotional needs of their stakeholders, and adapt to internal and external challenges. Practices and processes that had previously been effective had to be altered.

In times of crisis people turn to leaders for hope. During emergencies and crises, leaders need to draw upon different competencies than during more stable conditions. Decisions must be made quickly and decisively from the top. Leaders need to establish the conditions for positive change - articulate the common mission for stakeholders, engage and motivate staff, and modify strategies.

Collectively, the country experienced a loss of normalcy, and many people were hesitant and unsure about going forward. Leaders had to lead dynamically and navigate their companies through the volatile environment, while psychologically supporting their workforce who were experiencing fears, anxieties, social isolation and loneliness, and complications in their personal and business lives. Adaptive coping strategies are essential for managing emergency and work-related stress during crises.

During the pandemic, the most effective leaders became more engaged with their people. By promoting their staff’s ‘bouncing back,’ leaders use their emotional and social intelligence to nurture renewal and resilience. With coaching, many leaders have chosen to learn from their crisis ‘success factors’ of enhanced involvement with staff, fostering resilience and flexibility, and are intentionally building these practices into their organizations.

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Lessons to be Learned

The pandemic caused a dramatic disruption throughout society. Previously, most companies were attached and committed to maintaining the modes of operations that brought them success – their ‘legacy’ p


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