College of Business

Why it’s important to know how to lead through a crisis

By Neeley Cain | November 29, 2022

Crises are inevitable in organizations. Success during a crisis will depend on how leadership handles the situation.

A good leader can promote growth during an emergency, while a bad leader can break a company in the face of disaster.

 One of the most important attributes of leading through a crisis is controlling what is seemingly uncontrollable. A leader’s inability to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances affects the team too. The success or demise of a company is determined by how its leaders respond to the problem.

Why is Leading in a Crisis Critical?

Leadership is vital at all times, but when a crisis arises, a strong leader is of paramount importance.

In 2020, the world was forced to see the need for adaptable leadership. Leaders had to pivot in the face of crisis to keep businesses from failing. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, the world learned why leading through a problem is a critical skill for leaders.

Top Five Leadership Qualities During a Crisis

The first essential skill for a leader in a crisis is clear communication. Next, a leader needs to be adaptable. Finally, a leader must possess the ability to coordinate with others, empathize, and proactively create a solution. These qualities allow the organization to effectively move forward during a crisis. Seeing this will provide employees with a vision of the future.


Communication between leaders and employees is a necessary leadership skill. Employees look to their leadership to communicate expectations, important information, and support.

Communication determines how the company navigates the crisis at hand. Leaders who share their expectations with their employees give them a standard to follow. Maintaining an open communication channel allows leadership to build trust in the organization.


Adaptability is another skill that is required of leadership. Leaders must be able to assess a situation and create the best plan. The ability to change a plan in the face of a challenge differentiates a strong leader from a weak leader. 

Most organizations have a crisis plan for various situations. Adapting the plan based on the circumstances allows organizations to maneuver through problems. When adjusting to a crisis, leadership must take in new information to accurately plan how to move forward with the best possible outcome.

Empathy, Coordinating Others, and Proactively Creating Solutions

During times of uncertainty, organizations experience more problems. Leaders who empathize with their employees create a positive team environment. Listening to the thoughts of others in a crisis is critical. Coordinating with others leads to cohesiveness.

All of these skills aid in creating a cohesive team environment. Each of these contributes to the importance of proactively creating a solution. The ability to lead through a crisis is a skill that is vital to the success of any organization.

Neeley Cain is an enrollment counselor at Charleston Southern University. She has worked in higher education for two years, and she is currently working toward attaining a Master of Arts in organizational leadership.

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