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Key learnings: Leading through Covid

In March and April, leaders and their teams generally responded to the COVID crisis brilliantly. People were firefighting, adapting, collaborating, focusing and showing more compassion for others. And largely, it worked.

During this time we held a series of conversations to research what leaders and coaches thought their teams needed during this period of turbulence and uncertainty.  We spoke to people across the world including Hong Kong, Manila, Moscow, St Petersburg, Helsinki, Milan, Vienna, Lagos, Paris, London, Dublin, New York, Pennsylvania, Toronto and Seattle.  This meant that we captured views from countries ahead of the UK curve and a global view of what is needed that applies to teams wherever they are based.

These are our key findings.

Top 5 leadership questions teams want to time to think about now


  1. How can I best lead in a situation or ecosystem that is constantly changing?
  2. How do we return to before, find a new normal and build back better? 
  3. Which previously unquestioned behaviours in our organisation has this crisis exposed?
  4. Which new behaviours could we experiment with to see if they work in our new world 
  5. Which behaviours are emerging as essential for us to adopt as leaders in 2021?

Leadership teams will not succeed if they stay in the current mode. 

To really get our organisation performing in 2021, teams need to be supported to help them continue to perform at each stage of the changes we now face.” 

6 behaviours that great leaders have shown during this crisis


  1. They iterate ‘leapfrog’ thinking to make the most of the future up/down swing(s) in short phases
  2. They lead virtual sessions with empathy, in a human-centred way, and are working on becoming even more effective leaders
  3. They have long-term resilience, both as individuals and leaders in a crisis
  4. They support remote-working teams to help develop their resilience and maintain performance
  5. They focus on their teams’ productivity, wellbeing and mental health
  6. They encourage confidence to innovate and learn from mistakes, particularly in sales and client relationships, so they are ready for the top of the upswing(s)

The crisis is like a global leadership assessment test where we can compare how people respond to the same challenges, how they approach it differently and how their characters show up.

Leadership capability has never been more visible or comparable.

What teams want to work on together


Where we are now:

  • Time to reflect on how we’re all feeling, physically and emotionally
  • A chance to recognise and celebrate the highlights, lowlights and learning to date
  • A moment to draw breath, thank those who have done brilliantly and support those who are having a tough time

The changes and challenges ahead:

  • What are the next stages and challenges for our organisation?
  • How will we feel as we work our way through these?
    • Euphoric, confused and frustrated as lockdowns eases
    • Keen not to lose the positives of lockdown
    • Worried about the immediate economic impact of redundancies and reduced earnings
    • Concerned about the long-term economic pressures as the government rebalances the books
    • Aware of what it will take to maximise the opportunities

How we lead through all this:

  • Are we doing ok? Is my approach working?
  • What leadership legacy have we left so far?
  • How should we adapt our leadership in the future?
  • What winning habits will we need in 2021?
  • How do we engage our people with the challenges and opportunities to come?

The conversation continues


In June we will be continuing our conversations focusing on the key topics you and others have told us they want to discuss.

The process remains one of joint inquiry and experimentation.

The purpose is to support leaders, their teams, customers, and everyone involved in the ecosystems they are part of.

For more information on how to join one of these conversations please click here