Guiding an organization through a Crisis Requires Adaptive Leaders. Here’s How You Can Master This Vital Leadership Style

In times of crisis, how leaders respond makes a world of difference. Our analysis of crises and their outcomes suggests that the most effective leaders during tough times are adaptive: they address urgent needs while also repositioning their organization for greater resilience in the future. With an adaptive leader at the helm, employees and teams can respond flexibly to the fast-changing and unpredictable, unfamiliar impacts the crisis has inflicted—emerging stronger than ever.

Adaptive leaders can be recognized by their distinctive actions, mindset, and emotional engagement. Our research into actual leaders operating under real crisis conditions reveals the following:

  • Adaptive action: These leaders over-communicate about the challenges facing their organization and deliver painful news with sensitivity. They set clear and compelling goals that people can achieve to score inspiring successes quickly. They make sure people understand why their work matters. And they quickly and decisively set up resources needed to tackle their company’s toughest challenges.
  • Adaptive mindset: Such leaders are mentally agile. They base their decisions on facts, stay open to new information and ideas, and welcome advice and feedback from others.
  • Adaptive engagement: They effectively manage their own and others’ emotions. They remain calm unless expressing pride in others, and demonstrate personal humility, conveying authenticity. They score high in emotional intelligence—knowing what emotions they’re experiencing, understanding how people around them are feeling, and using this understanding to inform their decisions and actions.

Our three-part framework helps guide organizations successfully through crisis to transformation.