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How to Recognize Future Leaders in Your Company during Times of Crisis

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 crisis has changed every aspect of our culture, most of all, our work. In the blink of an eye, companies have had to transition to remote work. Managers and owners have had to find ways to salvage their business’ financial situation. Individuals have had to deal with a host of mental health issues triggered by the pandemic.

It’s an understatement to say that companies across the globe have been negatively impacted, and in times of upheaval, employees often sink or swim. It’s important to note that sinking is not something to condemn people for; 2020 has been a year marked by loss and suffering, and as bosses or managers, we need to exhibit compassion for the people in our team who have lost so many things due to the pandemic.

But it’s also a good time to see which of our people have shown leadership potential during this time of unprecedented tragedy. Here are the characteristics to watch out for when looking for potential leaders in your team during the time of COVID-19:


Having initiative means being resourceful and finding ways to present hardship without being told what to do. Having initiative and being resilient and determined go hand-in-hand; employees who have this quality show that they have the propensity to think for themselves and take immediate action when needed. An example of this is employees who show a willingness to adapt and pivot based on our ever-evolving circumstances–even if it means having to work harder than they did before the pandemic happened.


Being a leader entails having a vision and being able to cast that vision. Leading a team to victory involves being confident in one’s abilities to lead a whole team or project successfully, without doing damage to the company. Team members who have shown a level of confidence throughout the pandemic might be the kind of leaders who can build trust among the company’s stakeholders who rely on the managers’ leadership to get the business through the difficult years ahead.

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Communication ability

During times of upheaval, many people tend to respond in three ways: fight, flight, or freeze. Those who fight have a propensity for defensiveness when things get rough. Employees with a “flight” tendency are more likely to “ghost” their bosses when they’re unable to meet their deadlines or accomplish their tasks, meaning they might not be able to respond at all to follow-ups or check-ins. True to its name, those who freeze find themselves completely unable to do anything at all due to the shock of the pandemic.

These are expected, even appropriate, trauma responses for what we’re going through, and we need to show compassion for employees who are exhibiting these responses. On the other hand, potential leaders will still communicate clearly, even while going through any of these trauma responses. Keep an eye out for your employees who can be honest about what they’re going through—it shows they don’t care about putting on a show of bravado or strength and that they care enough about others, to be honest about what work they are unable to do for now.

Honesty and openness

The last point is honesty and openness, which are key characteristics of good crisis leadership. Another word for this may be integrity, which is the state of being whole. One example of this was Winston Churchill, who communicated with the people with remarkable openness and honesty during Britain’s darkest hour. Amidst pressure from various politicians to beg for Hitler’s mercy as the Nazis were advancing and winning the war, Churchill was honest to the nation about the long months of suffering and struggle before them, even while assuring them that he will do everything he can in his power not to surrender to Germany.

Due to his indomitable desire to protect Britain and his unwavering honesty to his people, Britain, along with the Allies, was able to endure and eventually win the war against fascism. While Churchill never understated and underestimated the risks, he continued to instill confidence in Britain’s people that they would win in the end by giving realistic reasons to hope.

Look for employees who could see the company’s current situation for what it is and are honest about it but are still finding ways to improve the circumstances.

Leaders Are Made

The COVID-19 crisis is a good time to find potential leaders in your company. Once you do, don’t hesitate to harness their potential by sending them to leadership training classes to boost their decision-making, compassion, and effectiveness as leaders and collaborators.

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