Leadership during crisis

“It is in time of crisis that good leaders emerge.” – Rudy Guiliani

There is a popular English proverb that says “cometh the hour, cometh the man” – the idea that the right leaders will come to the fore during times of crisis. Today, it is indelibly linked to Winston Churchill and his leadership during World War II. For many leaders across the world, “the hour” has now come again, with the Covid-19 outbreak threatening millions of lives across the globe unless swift, concerted action is taken.

We are living through a global health crisis with no modern-day precedent. What governments, corporations, hospitals, schools, and other organizations need now, more than ever, are what the writer David Foster Wallace called “real leaders” — people who “help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better, harder things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.”

There is no easy route through the crisis. Besides the obvious problem of selecting the correct path to take, leaders also face the monumental task of reassuring the public and persuading them to follow through on government decisions – even when measures such as social distancing – with its knock-on effect on employment – come at great personal cost.

A crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic is a time when you can show up as a leader and exhibit your company’s values. It is all in how you communicate. A wrong move could erode trust and unleash unrest that exacerbates the existing dangers. This is where the difference between a manager and good leader becomes more prominent. Although leaders and bosses have nearly identical definitions, in effect, they are different in today’s competitive world, especially during the Covid-19 crisis. The difference between leaders and bosses may be small denotatively, but connotatively, the difference is much greater.


1. A Manager manages work. A Leader leads people.

As mentioned in Harvard Business Review, ‘Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal.’ While ‘Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.’ In short, managers talk the talk while leaders walk the walk.


2. A Manager counts value. A Leader creates value.

A leader focuses on creating value through leading by example while a manager focuses on counting value and can even reduce value. According to Harvard Business Review, “If a diamond cutter is asked to report every 15 minutes how many stones he has cut, by distracting him, his manager is subtracting value.”


3. A Manager tells people what to do. A Leader builds a team.

One of the perks of being a good leader is the challenge of managing a team. One can only do it right if he/ she is able to build a great team. A team in which people communicate openly, are not afraid to ask questions, talk about their problems, and can always talk to the leader about any aspect of the work.

A bad leader or a manager is the type of a person who tells people what to do expecting miracles, thus doing it wrong. A manager does not care about building a team, he/ she cares about the project being delivered and whether everyone in the team did his or her job. A leader is quite the opposite, he/ she takes part in the project and supports his/ her team instead of giving everyone orders.


4. Manager Micromanages. Leader Delegates.

A good leader knows that not everyone on the team is able to perform certain tasks, even if people have desired skills or competencies. A manager simply does not care about it, whereas a leader knows that it is important to delegate. Delegating tasks can be profitable to the project, thus beneficial to the organization. A leader knows that everyone on the team is different. He knows people’s personalities and makes sure that tasks are assigned to this particular person because he or she has the unique expertise and approach to things.

Being a good leader may also mean being a good manager. But one cannot be a good manager if one is not a good leader. Ones work should not be only about gaining profits for oneself, but, above all, it should be about people. Being a leader means showing people how to act and how to constantly become better. Leading a team is leading human beings, not robots. After all, every team has a manager, but what people need now is a leader and leadership is all about people.


ABL Recruitment team