To Lead In Times Of Crisis, One Must Be Equal Parts Realist, Pragmatist and Optimist


As an evaluator of leadership capability, I have been asked what it takes to lead in a time of crisis, such as COVID-19. My answer has been simple, “you must be equal parts realist, pragmatist and optimist. This mixture of archetypes is essential in dealing with the fast moving and unknown outcomes of a crisis.

Realist. a person who accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly.

To face a situation that is as complex as COVID, fact finding is critical. Like a complex puzzle, getting started in the known areas is a good start (start in the corners). Ask for help in areas that are unknown and take too long to figure out on your own. Set realistic timelines and don’t lie to people. Everyone knows its going to be tough, acknowledge it.

Pragmatist. a person who is guided more by practical considerations than by ideals.

Emotional leaders tend to waiver and can get caught up in the drama. Don’t let that happen. Like Level 5 leaders, don’t get too high and don’t get too low. Focus on the goal and marshal resources accordingly. Focus on how prediction, problem-solving, and action will deliver results.

Optimist. a person who is hopeful and confident about the future.

The COVID pandemic will be awfully cruel to mankind and our collective circumstance. But it will not last. It is how we recover that will distinguish us. Leaders who can paint a picture of that future and rally teams around that vision will be survivors and winners. Leaders who can show this level of adaptability will be the heroes.