As we prepare for a new normal, companies are looking for steady leaders to navigate calmer waters in a post Covid-19 world

The fact remains, however, that uncertainty still has a grip on us. As the curve flattens, nobody truly knows what will happen in the next several months. It's all speculation.

What we do know without any doubt is that great, resilient, and positive leaders will continue to rise up and deflect whatever the virus throws their way. 

Bill Gates has spoken in the past to how such leaders respond in the face of adversity. He identified two defining characteristics of real leadership to match the surreal circumstances in which we find ourselves today.

1. Great leaders don't deflect the bad news

In Gates's book Business @ the Speed of Thought, written over two decades before any of us imagined the possibility of a microscopic invisible enemy affecting millions of lives globally, Gates explains that a company's ability to respond to unplanned events is a strong indicator of competitive advantage.

Gates advises leaders to do something rare: look for bad news and empower people to respond to it. He says leaders must model safety and encourage employees to share bad news as much as good news.

Easier said than done -- especially if employees are trapped in a command-and-control environment. To Gates's point, however: The flatter the corporate hierarchy, the more likely it is that employees will communicate bad news and act upon it.

"A change in corporate attitude, encouraging and listening to bad news, has to come from the top," writes Gates. He describes the good practices of shared leadership and authentic communication between teams as critical elements of success -- things we desperately need right now in a global pandemic.

2. Great leaders empower others

During his Microsoft CEO days, Bill Gates expressed something that should resonate deep within the collective conscience of leaders everywhere: "As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others."

Now that leaders everywhere have been forced to pivot to the new normal of virtual collaboration, whatever you thought about leaders before the outbreak, one thing remains more true now than ever: The great ones set themselves apart by effectively influencing and empowering other human beings in a time of crisis.

Great leaders are proactively responding daily to the challenges facing their people. They are doing whatever it takes to protect employees or the business and being empathetic to meet people's needs.

They are being mindful of the mental health needs of their team members and their families as social isolation, potential ill health, economic hardships, and other uncertainties of life weigh on people in unique ways.

This is how great leaders courageously shine with heroic displays of empathy and compassion when other human beings are down. It's also the type of leader we will need in a post-pandemic economy, as we recover and move on.