During times of prosperity and growth within the workplace, good leaders emerge. When the smooth sailing comes to an end and turbulence arises, the environment of the workplace changes drastically. People react differently in times of crisis and uncertainty, causing their fight-or-flight instincts kick in. Leaders are not determined by how they react to good fortune, but rather how they handle critical situations.

Good leaders often emerge during workplace success, but great leaders prove themselves during workplace crises. Which one are you?

Great leaders know how to be calm, honest, confident, and optimistic in the face of a stressful and time-pressed dilemma. Follow along below for some key qualities that define great leaders.

Calm in the Storm

Many people’s first reaction to an emergency is to worry about the possible negative outcomes and let their emotions consume them. For someone in a leadership position, your team needs you to be their rock. You’re likely to be swarmed with emotions, naturally, but take a moment to evaluate your feelings and identify where they’re coming from. Demonstrating a high level of emotional intelligence while navigating rough waters will allow you to be the calm within the storm of a crisis.

By stepping back from the situation and analyzing your thoughts, you’re actually detaching from your emotions and will be able to address the situation with a more objective view and calm perspective. Rather than pouring energy into worry or blame, your mindset will be shifted to solutions and effective damage control.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Your team will soon be asking you for answers and clarity regarding the situation. After taking a moment to calm your emotions, next take time to assess the issue at hand. Take a look at the scope of it, the possible outcomes, and the different avenues you can take moving forward. 

Once you have a clear understanding of the crisis, you’ll be able to effectively explain the details to team members. Give them the facts and be honest about what the issue entails. While the details could induce fear, it’s important that no one is left in the dark and they feel prepared for what’s to come. Everyone should have realistic expectations for the future, even if they’re unfavorable. 

Confidence is Key

You can offset the chaos of your team simply by your demeanor and attitude. People look to leaders for stability and security in times of turbulence. When explaining to your team the game plan moving forward, be prompt and decisive in your delivery. Do your best to minimize the time for your team to be confused before addressing the issue in an effort to keep their panic at bay. 

When facing a time of crisis, we all crave control. Coming to your team quickly with an action plan will ease their worries and re-shift their focus toward a solution. Having a quick, decisive plan also demonstrates your confidence, and will urge your team to trust your lead in fighting the battle ahead.

Think Positive, Be Productive

Morale is a key player in any crisis. While reacting optimistically to a potentially catastrophic situation may be hard to imagine, it is necessary for you and your team to stride forward with a positive outlook. Your team looks to you and will absorb the emotions you exhibit. Your optimism will activate motivation in a team of people who are facing adversity. 

An article by Forbes suggests that leaders ask themselves, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Answering the question will also allow you to sit with the fears you have of the worst case scenario. But after some time, you’ll be prepared and will have an answer to any problem that comes your way. Your fears will subside and a calm resolve will take its place. 

Positivity breeds productivity. The higher your team’s morale is, the quicker you can overcome the obstacle ahead. 


Great leadership is characterized by consistent success and prosperity. The reality is that unexpected issues are inevitable and will arise whether you are a great leader or a poor one. Your reaction is what determines your credibility as a true leader. 

Every crisis is different and most are unexpected, each unique situation embodies an overall lack of control. Depending on the nature of the situation and the structure of the company, more questions arise and leaders must make fast decisions on previously unexperienced issues. 

No matter the protocol or specific plan to resolve the problem, all great leaders exemplify the same core qualities in times of crisis. If you’re looking to sharpen your skills and become an even stronger leader during smooth and rough waters, consider how Knowted’s executive coaching service could benefit you.

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