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Leading in Times of Challenge & Confusion

Written by: The Leadership Challenge / Dan Schwab
Published on: Mar 22, 2021

Leader Confusion
Image credit: mediaphotos/Getty Images


It is often said that true leadership emerges in moments of crisis and challenge. We can learn a lot by studying how Lincoln, Churchill, and Kennedy gave confidence to the public during chaotic times.

Indeed, those of us whom others look to for guidance can demonstrate a few key behaviors that inspire confidence and help others keep a sense of balance, even as their everyday routines experience disruption in unpredictable ways.

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Recently, I came across two articles in Business West and Fast Company that bring these ideas to light. They are well worth reading in full. But, if you don’t have time, here are three key points to consider:

Be understanding and compassionate

Most of us are prone to fear of the unknown. Even if you feel close to panic, take time to consider the emotional needs of your staff. Listen to their concerns and do your best to reassure them that we will all get through this time of crisis by following public health guidelines, by focusing on our top priorities, and by staying together. 

Use this opportunity to highlight preparation and community

Remind people of the community’s readiness to deal with a crisis. Here in San Francisco, for example, I think of how well we weathered the Sonoma fires and how well-positioned we are to get through any other adversity. A big part of that confidence comes from the resilience we developed as a community, which proved that we are strongest when we work together for the common good. 

Make tough decisions

Keep in mind that leaders make decisions that clarify direction and that provide people with certainty. We live in a time that calls for us to give everyone a strong sense of what our priorities are and how we will demonstrate them. Don’t shy away from making tough calls within the guidelines provided by senior leadership.

Dan Schwab is a Certified Master with 30 years of experience working with The Leadership Challenge®.

He’s an independent leadership and organizational consultant who collaborates with clients from the private, non-profit, and governmental sectors.

You can reach him at or

To face the obstacles of today and tomorrow, we need leaders at every level. The Leadership Challenge® gives everyone the tools - including the LPI®: Leadership Practices Inventory® - and practices to Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart. To learn more about how The Leadership Challenge can help you and your organization foster a culture of leaders, visit our website