People say that you can see a person's true character in times of crisis. When things get real bad, you start to see who shows up as a leader and who does not. Now that Covid-19 has realized it's potential to become a world-changing pandemic, we are in dire need of true leadership.

Unfortunately we can't always wait for governments to lead or make timely decisions. It is on us to take personal responsibility to be the leaders we can be. It's on us to lead our businesses and teams, while also sending ripples into our communities. The time is now for great leaders to stand up and navigate through these dire times.

Here are five powerful ways that leaders show up during the most difficult times. Consider each one and how you can quickly implement it into your role as a leader. 

1. They are honest

The world is in short supply of honesty. The last three years have seen a challenge to what constitutes the truth. In addition, social media's proliferation has enabled people to spread misinformation and broadcast messages as if they are the experts in a given field. This dynamic further adds to people's panic and vulnerability.

What the world needs, and it's the same for your business and team, is a leader to step up and communicate from a place of truth. If your business is in trouble, communicate that reality and share what you're doing to address it. 

Your team, customers and investors don't need to be babied. Instead, they want to feel confident that you're in touch with reality and that they can depend on you. 

2. They lead from empathy

A great leader will always put their focus on other people who depend on them. They will assess the needs of others and consider their feelings and experience. While tough decisions need to be made in times of crisis, a great leader will look through a lens of empathy. 

Coming from a place of empathy also helps you communicate effectively. When people ask you questions, and you can feel their fear, empathy helps you soften and connect with them instead of being triggered by their fear or feeling defensive that you don't have answers or better solutions.

3. They ask for help

Society has created a hero archetype that depicts a strong person at the top who makes decisions and can do it on their own. This couldn't be further from the truth. 

A great leader does not do this on their own. A great leader knows they need help, guidance and support. A great leader knows they need lots of input and advice to navigate during difficult times. 

Also, a great leader will ask their team for help. A company or business is a group of people working together toward a shared goal. When a black swan event like this threatens that group, it's okay to go to the group for help. It's okay to ask your team to make sacrifices for the whole. It's okay to involve them in the process and ask for ideas to move forward.

4. They prioritize mindfulness

While I acknowledge that mindfulness is not going to stop the virus or prevent you from initiating layoffs because revenue is down, I do feel strongly that mindfulness will give you the space, mental clarity and emotional stability to navigate these difficult times.

In my business, I now lead a five minute meditation at the start of each all-hands meeting. Employee feedback has been very positive. For those five minutes, we connect to the present moment through our breaths and slow down our nervous systems. It helps everyone come at the problems from a place of clarity instead of a place of fear and panic.

5. They take ownership

While a poor leader will hide or blame others when things spiral out of control, a great leader will face the problem and show up to make difficult decisions. A great leader does not look around for someone else to solve the problem. A great leader takes full ownership. 

Ownership does not mean you are invincible or always have the answers. Ownership means that you're willing to continue showing up to the problem. You're willing to keep fighting. You're willing to accept the severity of the situation and make decisions. 

Now more than ever, the world lacks leaders who can be accountable and own the situation. Step up, own the situation and keep showing up.

Final Word

If you are reading this, you're likely in a position to lead in some way. Whether you're a CEO, a product manager or a branch manager, you have the opportunity to lead your teams and inspire confidence. Your teams need you now more than ever. Consider how these leadership behaviors can help you and your teams endure through this historically challenging time.

Published on: Mar 26, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.