Survival of the Fittest: the best traits of crisis leadership - Decisiveness

Evy Fellas

Evy Fellas

How do you lead your people through a crisis? 

We’ve found the five traits and tactics that effective leaders utilise in a crisis situation - using our Responsiveness and Organisational Fitness survey data, real life leadership examples, and psychology, neuroscience, and coaching-derived insights.

Each trait is vital. But first? Leaders need to realise a crisis is happening - whether an unexpected emergency, like fire or flood, or a disruptive, long-term situation with potential threat to health. With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, recognising the risk was essential. Only then can the core traits for effective leadership have an impact.

1. Decisiveness

‘Crisis’ comes from the Greek for ‘decide’ - a turning point, where the need for leadership and action is crucial. And that’s the first trait that great leaders need: decisiveness.

Our findings

From our research, the most effective leaders were seen as decisive - recognising they were in a crisis situation, and quick to act:



From our Responsiveness Survey data, where we asked how organisations were adapting to Covid-19, we saw that leaders were generally good at enabling their teams to work from home:

  • 97% said their leaders quickly formed and communicated new policies and procedures
  • 94% said leaders took practical steps to help them work from home

Even where employees felt they weren’t set up with the tech they needed to work from home, the crisis pushed their leaders to find effective ways for teams to keep in touch. 

The bigger picture

World leaders reacted to the Covid-19 crisis in extremely different, and varyingly effective, ways - we all saw those that were slow to react, refusing to identify the existence of the crisis, which tragically led to soaring death tolls that may have been mitigated. 

We also saw strong displays of leadership - namely from Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan. When the crisis emerged in January, she introduced 100+ measures to slow the spread of the virus.

Taiwan was at risk, due to its proximity to mainland China - particularly as the outbreak coincided with the Lunar New Year, when 1 million+ Taiwanese people on the mainland were expected to return home. Despite that, the island reported only 486 cases and just 7 deaths. 

Tsai Ing-wen led her country so well, she managed to help other struggling countries too - donating 10 million masks to the United States, Italy, Spain and 9 other European countries, as well as smaller nations with diplomatic ties to the island. Tsai’s response was dubbed  “among the best globally” - exemplifying strong decisive leadership.

To summarise

Leaders need to first identify there’s a crisis, quickly gather all the relevant information, anticipate what’s coming, and work out how it’ll affect their people - that is, make decisions.

Ineffective leaders are indecisive, or in denial. But decisiveness is just the start… look out for our next post in the series, to see the other traits you need to lead your people through a crisis.


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Topics: Organisational Fitness, News

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