Navigating A Crisis

27th October 2021 | sysadmin | Reading time: 3 minutes

A crisis is a powerful force of change often packaged in the form of intense difficulty, uncertainty, trouble, or danger. As COVID-19 showed us, crises can come from anywhere, at any time, and they do not discriminate against who they impact. While we cannot anticipate and plan for every possible problem that could come our way, we can bolster our leadership skills, and be ready to support our leaders, so we are better equipped to handle unexpected issues in general.

Colin Wilford, a globally renowned Clinical Psychologist, Leadership & Executive Coach, and the CEO of Wilford Scholes shared some of his key observations from coaching executives through hardship for the last 30 years, and from leading his own company through the recent pandemic. He states that regardless of the quality or magnitude of the problem, be it organisational, financial, medical, or emotional, there is always the potential for crises to take a profound psychological toll on leaders for three reasons: a sense of personal responsibility, guilt, and reluctance to delegate.


Much like a parent, a leader feels directly responsible for the health and safety of all those under their supervision. This deep sense of duty to protect and take care of others puts leaders under immense pressure to solve the problem quickly and “correctly,” to minimize harm in all forms. Experiencing such elevated levels of stress takes a toll on both physical and mental health, especially if a leader is particularly empathetic and people-centered.


If anyone suffers as a result of the crises, leaders often feel it is their fault, even when it could not have been prevented, or other factors are really to blame. During the pandemic, we saw many leaders forced to make painful decisions, such as reducing salaries and discontinuing contracts. Accepting guilt for these decisions is natural, but unhelpful. Leaders complain of being unable to sleep, losing their temper more easily, and worrying more than usual during a crisis. It is important to find ways to balance this sense of duty to and care for others with the reality of the problem at hand in order to avoid undue stress.

Reluctance To Delegate

Being solely responsible for a problem is a huge burden, and it is often an illusion that leaders create. This is usually unintentional and happens despite being trained and mentored in the art of delegating. Most leaders trust their people are competent and capable of fixing a problem, or at least capable of fixing some aspect of a problem, yet they instinctively take on the entire problem themselves. Neglecting to share the load and allow others to provide solutions will add to the psychological toll, inhibiting resilience, creativity, and productivity. Remembering to trust others and delegate tasks is a key to reducing the negative effects of crises.

5 Reminders to leaders and those supporting leaders through crisis:

  1. Delegate: If you are a leader, delegate is your magic word during a crisis. Always involve capable colleagues and trust they will help you get the job done. If you are someone supporting a leader, remind your superior of your own talents, experience, and willingness to help. Offering to take on some of the burden is sometimes all that is needed to help.
  2. Make space to process: Whether you are a leader or someone supporting a leader, it is important to have a mentor, trusted associate, or therapist who can help you process your feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Ignoring emotions during such a highly emotional time for the sake of focusing on the task at hand is bound to bite back later. Sharing what you are going through will increase your self-awareness, which will make you more effective and confident in solving any problem. It also prevents you from making emotion-based decisions that are not in your, your people’s or the company’s best interest.
  3. Be Solution Focused: Trust that there is not just one solution to every crisis, but many. You may need to research what others have done to solve similar problems in the past, but there answers are out there if you know which questions to ask.
  4. Give yourself grace: Regardless of if you are a top level executive, a production line manager, or anyone in between, remember that you are human. No one expects you to have all of the answers. Often the best leaders are those who facilitate and empower others to find their own answers to the problem at hand. If you are someone supporting a leader, adopt a compassionate and patient lens. Trust that your leader is doing their best, and the more emotional support they have, the better their best will be.
  5. Change your perspective: Every crisis is a catalyst for change. Because most crises are unexpected, you can think of it as a FREE opportunity to make powerful and positive decisions that you may not have had the opportunity to make otherwise. Changing your perspective to look at what a crisis is teaching you will reduce the panic you may feel when confronted with a problem, and will make you more creative and effective when looking for solutions.