Leadership Principles During Crisis: How to Steer to Better Times

June 2, 2020 by  Chris Erwin

On March 19 we wrote 5 Principles to Remember During Crisis. The blog post was in response to COVID-19.

Less than three months later, we find ourselves in another crisis. One of great civil unrest resulting from racism and violence against black Americans, catalyzed by the death of George Floyd.

Racism in America is not a new crisis. But the responding protests, community dialogue, and civil action have reached new heights.

This moment calls for strong leadership. Leadership that can steer our country, corporations, and communities to needed change and better times. To awareness and knowledge about systemic racism. To safe spaces for civil discourse and collaboration. To action that can make a difference. To the enfranchisement of black Americans. To racial unity.

These principles are specifically, and universally, relevant.


Create a safe space. Listen. 

Yesterday I spoke to the founder and CEO of a 50+ person team that creates digitally native commerce brands. I asked him about management best practices considering the weekend’s events.

He said he was simply listening.

On his Monday AM weekly all-hands call, black voices on his team spoke up. They shared their thoughts and feelings about the weekend’s events. The rest of the team, predominantly white, also listened. There was no carefully crafted CEO message. Just silence and open ears.

The team heard new perspective, new ideas. Perhaps changed past assumptions. They learned together.

Have you asked your teams about the past week’s events? What they are feeling, thinking? Use the power of questions. And intentional listening.


Seek diverse voices, education.

Leaders make good decisions when they have good information.

Good information is unfiltered and from varied sources. It is data-based research. It is honesty from colleagues and employees, who feel safe in being candid with leadership. It is an understanding of people’s fear, insecurity, excitement, hope. It is from people with different points of view, different backgrounds and upbringings. As it relates to addressing racism, good information includes different recommendations for needed change, action to be taken.

So, get outside your bubble.

Go on social media. Follow new personalities, publications. Find your weak ties and ask who they’re watching, listening to, reading. Absorb new editorial, research, ideas. Consume what you would previously ignore, dismiss, or simply not be aware of.


How does it make you feel? What do you agree / not agree with? Why? Think about your responses. Empathize. Challenge assumptions, yours and theirs.

Be widely informed.


Admit your reality.

Know thyself. We can not change that which we are not aware of.

What role do you play in systemic racism? Intentional or otherwise?

When you walk down the street late at night, and see someone of another race walking toward you, do you feel something different than if you saw someone of the same race?

If the answer is yes, admit it. That truth is a source of power. You can then realize the need for change and do something about it.

What can you admit? What else can you be aware of?

Ignorance is not bliss. It erodes and destroys.


Use your skills and resources.

Not everyone has the same skills and resources. Some have capital. Others only have time, or trained skills.

All are valuable. Seek out ways to use them.

Invest in black founders. Make, and recruit, donations to non-profits that battle racism and violence. Mentor black entrepreneurs, provide them access to your professional network. Provide pro bono consulting, financial, legal advisory.

I’ve seen some recent examples of this via LinkedIn posts. Awesome.

We each have a way to give. Including our companies and teams. How are you helping? How are you holding your teams BIG?


Pause. Be thoughtful.

Observe. Collect information. Think. Process.

There is urgent need for action. But we must get that action right. Maybe you need some time before you act.

Totally ok.

No need to rush a response because of what others do or say. Or hashtag. Find the response that’s right for you. Right for your teams.

A thoughtful response is 100x more powerful than a knee-jerk reaction. Thoughtfulness recruits and rallies. It unifies.

It is what we need now from our community and corporate leaders, more than ever.

Ping us here at anytime. We love to hear from our readers.

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