Leading in crisis / Liderar una crisis

Leading in crisis

Have you ever been part of an extraordinary team? One of those high performing teams, not only in good times but, more important, in complex times. Leading in crisis is a challenge. Managing the pressure once it’s there is very difficult. On the contrary, building the team in times of peace to be ready for when it comes, it’s pretty much easy and get better results.

In the way to results, let me tell you about three cornerstones.


In his talk – Trusting teams -, Simon Sinek brings up this question: how can you, leader, create an environment in which your people can work at their best? The first step is building trust. If you don’t build trust, your people will spend a lot of time lying, hiding and faking at work. In summary, pretending they don’t have problems, they don’t struggle, and everything is going smooth.

When you build trust, people feel safe and that psychological safety is what will allow them to raise their hands and say “we have an issue” without the fear of being rejected or humiliated. It’s not only that they ask for help, it’s also that you will know sooner about a crisis waiting to happen.


Conflicts can split up teams, especially in times of crisis. As Patrick Lencioni explains, how you manage conflicts always makes a difference.

Failing to engage in conflict is terrible; you can put your team in a temporary comfort zone, avoiding having hard conversations, but in the end, trust will be damaged and there won’t be true commitment. Well managed conflict leads to real commitment.

At some point, people at the team cannot agree with a situation or a decision. If the leader is not aware or simply avoid the conflict by imposing their view, they probably acknowledge, and no one really commits.

Having an open discussion, compromising with the result, even if not everyone fully agrees with it, and making everyone accountable is the recipe to get real commitment.


Leading in crisis requires not only trust and commitment. I’ve talked many times about complexity and how it impacts business and teams. A crisis can’t be managed by a single person. Everyone in the team should contribute to find the way out. That’s a mindset: cooperation instead of competition.

When a leader creates a context where people can work at their best, they also have the room to make their decisions. And this is key is a crisis. When they know what the others are working on, stay committed and accountant, and they have the information, they can make the best decisions to move forward.


We are so accustomed to talking about results that, sometimes, we forget what is that when leading in crisis. A crisis, when it comes, is something complex, unexpected and inevitable. The leader needs to think what the best outcome should be, knowing that maybe they can’t control it.

A crisis could be a big chance to find new ways of doing, unexpected but good outcomes, or simply a change that brings different opportunities. To be able to catch these trains, you need your team: a trusting, committed and cooperative team being responsible for finding the best results.

Your job is not solving the problem. Your work, leader, is creating the right environment for them to solve the problem. And you have to do this in advance. That’s the secret of leading in crisis.