How to be a leader in pandemic times

Opinion article by João Moreira, CEO of Ábaco Consulting, for Executive Digest: [PT only]

The new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a case study based on uncertainty. Nobody really knows what it is, how it appeared, nor how long it will last or how harmful it will be. We live, every day, based on assumptions. We do not know when we will return to normality, or even what this new “normal” will be. But, on the other hand, we all realize – nothing will ever be the same and we will have a reality quite different from what we were used to.

This pandemic is, like all other crises, accelerated, exhausting and disorienting. Information changes daily and decisions made one morning are out of date the next morning. In this sense, all business managers now face very difficult choices in responding to the virus, since all options appear to have unacceptable financial or human costs. And, for example, there are some companies that are closing their doors temporarily or others that are struggling to change their usual practices, namely incorporating remote work or social distance.

At a time when all managers have too many situations to control, COVID-19 represents, for us, an additional source of stress. In addition to having to deal with the impact that it may have on our business, we are also concerned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with our employees, customers, partners, our family and friends.

Against this background, totally atypical and demanding, all managers should take into account that change can not be avoided and it is essential that companies reinvent and able to have a rapid response capability. But, for this, although this situation may seem unsustainable and insurmountable, it is essential that company leaders do not take reactive decisions, for which it is crucial to define contingency plans, in a serene and calm manner, and systematically review them for, when it is necessary to activate them, not to succumb to the pressure of the moment and to take the risk of making important decisions that affect the future of the company and all those who work in it. No initiative can be successful if the decision criteria and objectives it proposes to achieve have not been well defined from the start.

Leading a company and coordinating its respective teams, in a time of global pandemic, requires adaptations in relation to usual practices. For example: increasing communication with employees is a practice that should now be implemented and that a manager should always keep in mind, since open, honest, clear and timely communications allow him to reinforce trust and, at the same time, At the same time, demonstrate your leadership skills. The talents of any organization, regardless of their size, need to believe that their organization is capable of dealing with the crisis experienced. But, we can never forget that we talk about people and, therefore, all our communications, both internal and external, must have a humane and as close approach as possible.

Therefore, any manager in this context should take the following into account:

1- Strengthen your community: Communicate more regularly, but with credibility and in a positive way, with all the teams, so that they feel that they are joining efforts so that everyone gets out of the situation as little as possible. It is essential to make employees feel safe, involved and informed, in order to strengthen their sense of belonging to the organization – for example, send an email, every morning in the morning, to all employees, with tips, news, updates, expectations, news about the company or, if the size allows it, call an employee every day;

2- Ask for feedback: Try to understand what the real needs of your employees are in the face of this situation and how you can make them feel safe at work and at home. By keeping abreast of important issues such as technical support, health and safety, emotional well-being, employee benefits and external pressures (financial challenges, concerns about children, elderly parents …) you will have more control over your teams and will be able to prepare for any situations that may arise;

3- Not resisting change: Based on feedback from employees and the community, it may make sense to change the rules established to address health issues or simply convey support for people’s emotional needs. Share the desire to work with them, in order to help them during this atypical period;

4- Monitoring your customers: In this context, more than just commercial monitoring, it is essential to be aware of the situation of your customers, the health status of your employees and the impacts on the business. Only in this way will you be able to develop specific initiatives to help them overcome this difficult moment and help to meet real needs, thus assuming the role of a true partner;

5- Transform this pandemic into an opportunity: While everyone is focused on the now, it is essential that all managers start thinking about tomorrow and new ways to continue to attract customers and prospects.


As managers of an organization, we must never forget that the way we deal with the management of the new Coronavirus is fundamental, since it will be a decisive moment, both for the leader and for the organization itself. Responding to COVID-19 requires that we lead with both our most human side and our technical skills.