Characteristics of Strong Leadership During COVID-19

Last Updated on October 22, 2020 / COVID-19, Training & Development

HR Question:

As a result of COVID-19, many business leaders will be put to the test as their businesses have had to stop, reassess, pivot, and restart parts of or all of their operations in a flash. What are some characteristics of strong leadership during COVID-19?

HR Answer:

During a crisis, leadership characteristics and values are really put to the test. In the last two months, leaders have been thrust into a challenging and unprecedented landscape that is difficult to navigate – even for the best. And it won’t stop now. The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially chaotic due to the quick decision making and response times required to overcome unfamiliar obstacles while meeting the needs of employees, customers, partners/vendors, and more. These are unchartered waters. There is no playbook. We’re learning and innovating as we go. So, what does it take to be a successful captain?

There are many characteristics that can make a strong leader, but there are five in particular that can set managers and executives up for success. By activating the below strengths in your work and daily life, leaders can help their teams and their companies navigate these choppy waters.

Characteristics of Leadership During COVID-19

Agility and Adaptability: The willingness and ability to change quickly and easily. To be able to shift to new or different ways of thinking. If there is one skill set that we all have had to rely on the most during this time, it is this one. By remaining agile and flexible as new challenges come about, leaders have been and will be able to see creative, innovative, and potentially unexplored solutions to meet the opportunity head-on. Which leads to the next characteristic…

Creativity: The ability to invite and be open to the perspectives and viewpoints of others to solve a problem or bring a vision to fruition by asking questions.  Many of the problems or challenges that leaders are facing at this time are challenges because we, as a business society, have not had to face them before. Employees have not had to create DIY workspaces within 24 hours’ notice. IT departments have not had to ensure the cyber safety of an entire department or company while turning on a dime. And leaders have not had to quickly learn how to lead a remote team, manage productivity, and still ensure deliverables are completed while trying to balance a nose-diving economy. The need for creativity and the ability to see other viewpoints allows leaders to create a landscape that is manageable for both themselves and their employees.

Visionary: Seeing and planning a future state using the data at hand and forecasting possibilities. Sharing the vision with others and inspiring action toward it.

Bravery: Facing the challenge or difficulty head-on. Speaking up for what is right during opposition and is not afraid to admit when they don’t know the answer. To say that this pandemic has required a certain amount of bravery would be an understatement. Many leaders have found themselves needing to make difficult, potentially unpopular decisions to ensure the survival of their business and the safety of their team. Those decisions require a sense of bravery, as leaders often open themselves up for further criticism. Maintaining a brave face (even if you don’t always feel that way) can instill the necessary confidence in your team to keep moving.

Humor: Bring on the fun! The ability to bring laughter and light-heartedness to a situation is important. As anxiety and stress are heightened for most (if not all) employees at this time, the ability to appropriately infuse humor into a tense situation can be integral to keeping a team moving forward.

While these characteristics might be behaviors you bring to the table, it’s important to discern whether they are top strengths that you easily and consistently apply, or if you only use them once in a while. In times of stress, this answer becomes evident based upon your reactions. Were you, as a leader, able to remain creative and explore new solutions? Are you able to maintain bravery, even when many future events are uncertain?

Consider using this time for self-reflection awareness and determine development opportunities to further engage your top strengths. Ask yourself, “How will this crisis make me better?” and “How can I best help others during this time?” as a guide. Be a model of self-care and self-awareness for your team members, so the entire team can be resilient through the storm you’re navigating together. Additionally, invest in developing these strengths and values over time to optimize your effectiveness. This challenge, unique and unprecedented as it may be, can help you continue to mold and practice many of the characteristics that you will need to succeed.

And as with any self-awareness and development activity, it’s important to get feedback from the team on how you and the rest of the team are doing in applying these strengths. Designing and conducting a quick survey will help gather these insights. Additionally, Gallup created this quick audit to help leaders determine if their leadership approach through COVID-19 is meeting the needs of their team members.  An HR Professional or Leadership Coach can help with the execution of an assessment, survey, and development plan specifics to support your growth in leadership effectiveness through COVID-19. Ensure the captain(s) are taken care of during this time to effectively steer the ship into the “new land of opportunity.”


Executive/Leadership development will impact the bottom line for your business. It’s more important than ever to optimize your operations during the pandemic. Strategic HR can help with your leadership and HR strategy through COVID-19. For more information, please visit our HR Strategy and Training & Development pages, or simply contact us – we’d love to hear from you.