What Makes A Leader Stand Out In Challenging Times?

2020 has without doubt been very different.  Organisations and individuals are having to deal with a lot of uncertainty.

Leading at the best of times is tough.  It’s certainly much harder than it looks.

In tough times the demands ramp up.  Expectations are greater. People want answers.  Sometimes they are aren’t available.

So what makes a leader stand out in challenging times in my view?

Being able to stay calm

Leaders are human.  They have their doubts like everyone else.

In challenging times it’s vital that leaders are able to stay calm.

Those that can are likely to make better decisions and decisions at the right times.

Clear communication

Simplicity is the key word when it comes to communicating in challenging.

It’s easy to over complicate the message.

Remember those receiving the message may be a little anxious.

Simplicity, clarity and consistency when it comes to messaging will make a major difference.

Good judgement

There are a lot of uncertainties and unknowns in challenging times.

How you respond to those unknowns is down to judgement.

Good judgement isn’t just about decisions it’s also about behaviours too.

The way you behave sends a message and sets the tone.

It’s vital therefore that your behaviours are able to stand the test of public scrutiny.

Greater collaboration

There’s always the most senior person.

However, the most senior person doesn’t have all the answers.

Leaders who stand out recognise that successfully navigating through challenging times requires collaboration and teamwork.

Remember together everyone achieves more.


If things are uncertain be honest.

If there may be job losses be honest.

If you don’t know what is going to happen be honest.

You may worry that people won’t want you to be honest.  In my experience the complete opposite is true.

The people you lead are much more resilient than you might think.


There’s plenty of demands on your time when leading in challenging times.

You also know that you have a fixed amount of time each day.

Successful leaders in challenging times recognise that they have to focus on what matters.

The critical rather than the desirable.


Leaders might wish things were different. 

At the same time acceptance of the situation is the starting point for moving forward.

Good leaders accept they don’t have all the answers.

Good leaders accept they can only work with what they have.

Good leaders accept that there will be mistakes and there will be learning too.


Yes challenging times are tough.

Equally it’s important to keep perspective.

Things will change.  Things will get better.

There are always positives, even when they are hard to find.

Perspective is simply the ability to stand back and look at things more broadly and maintain a sense of reality.

 So that’s my thoughts on what makes a leader.  What’s important is that you aim to do your best.  That’s all you can ever do.