Crisis Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

Want to lead through this crisis with emotional intelligence?

Consider current research and answer these four questions.

Current research shows people need more emotional intelligence now than ever.

And they need to see it from their leaders.

In recent surveys by Wiley*, 98% of workers said emotional intelligence is important to their work: specifically, adapting communication style, effective collaboration, and showing empathy. 50-60% said these skills are even more important now with the current pandemic.

Four questions for you

  1. How are you taking care of yourself?

Don’t underestimate the extra emotional weight of the crisis – on you and others. Finding rhythms of rest, exercise, diet, and leisure are critical. So is unplugging from the news and plugging into mutually supportive relationships. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first.

  1. How are you tending to the emotional state of your direct reports and colleagues?

You don’t have to be a psychotherapist. But you do need to demonstrate an extra dose of grace and empathy. Connecting personally, asking genuinely how people are, giving positive feedback, and communicating 3-4 times more than normal are imperative in times of uncertainty.

  1. How can you proactively build effective team collaboration and connection?

If you’ve equipped the teams you lead with the technology and equipment they need to work virtually, good for you. But that’s not enough. In Wiley’s recent research*, 99% said they were effective team members. Yet their teammates disagree:

61% of teammates report a lack of trust in the team. 2/3 say they rarely offer constructive feedback or question each other, and 4/5 are not willing to acknowledge weakness.

80% don’t hold each other accountable. 59% say team members refuse to take personal responsibility for improving their team’s performance.

55% leave meetings without everyone being clear on commitments.

“Teams suffer from a critical interpersonal skills gap that impedes their potential to achieve.”* And the extra stress, change, and uncertainty of a crisis makes effective teaming even more challenging.

To maintain team productivity, engagement, and retention, you need to do more than set them up with Zoom and Yammer. You need a team development and engagement plan.

  1. How can you help your boss?

Your boss needs your focus, agility, and resourcefulness reacting to crisis curve balls you’ve been thrown. She needs your input and feedback as you re-set strategic direction, priorities, and processes. But she also needs your help assessing your teams’ morale and the potential people impact of the changes you are considering. She needs your direct feedback – and grace – about her leadership and the tone she is setting. How can you help her keep your teams focused, positive, and no more stressed out than they already are?

Leading well through a crisis requires extra focus on taking care of yourself and relating with emotional intelligence to your colleagues, your teams, and your boss.


*Note: Research was conducted by Wiley Workplace Learning Solutions, a division of John Wiley & Sons. Surveys took place in February and early March of 2020 with 20,000 workers, across industries and all career levels, mostly in the US. Separate research in 2019 also compiled data from 13,000 participants in Wiley’s Five Behaviors of Cohesive Teams programs.)

Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. As a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps leaders and teams achieve extraordinary relationships and results that matter. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.