Leadership in times of crisis

The 17th of October marked a new era for Lebanon. The revolution which aimed at combating the unprecedented level of corruption had a very high cost. The level of uncertainty and volatility being witnessed since then has left its repercussions on the economic and financial level in a way that Lebanon hasn’t experienced during the civil war, post the assassination of late prime minister Hariri or even after July war 2006. Businesses are catastrophically suffering and the whole economy is in crisis. Classical leadership models won’t serve well in such critical times. Being Agile is not an option. Yet not all business leaders have what is required to be agile and to adopt the trendiest leadership models. Lebanon over the past 3 months has become a unique case study which demonstrates how leadership should be exercised during times of crisis.

Around 2,500 years ago, Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, said, “The only constant in life is change.” Back then, Heraclitus was not able to refresh his Twitter or Facebook account to see that what was trending a minute ago would disappear from his timeline in few seconds.  In that era, the world was not disrupted by this many uncertainties, ambiguities, or complexities. The world was not interconnected as much, and consumers were not spoiled to the extent of updating their needs, wants, demands, desires, tastes, and preferences every so often. Despite all this, Heraclitus had the gall to talk about change!

With these new factors shaping our world, change has gained more momentum than ever before, which requires a kind of leadership responsive or adaptive to this change. Being a manager does not suffice; being a leader is indispensable. It is worth mentioning that even the leadership style that used to be trendy years ago has become obsolete in our new world of business.

Leadership in Action: Complexity

  • According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, organizations are launching more major change initiatives than ever before: three to five per year, on average.
  • The Corporate Executive Board reports that globally, half of employees expect a major change in six months.
  • IBM’s Global Chief Executive Officer Study shows that 79% of CEOs say that the level of uncertainty and complexity will get even higher; less than half say they are prepared to manage it.
  • Forum Global survey of 700 leaders shows that 72% of them report high or extremely high increases in uncertainty within their companies.
  • Forum VOC research indicates that twice as many business leaders say that “the ability to lead change” is a top business challenge as compared with 2010.

Triggers for New Forms of Leadership

  • The skills needed for leadership have changed—more complex and adaptive thinking abilities are needed.
  • The majority of managers have developed by virtue of on-the-job experiences, training, and coaching/ mentoring; while these factors are all still important, leaders are no longer developing fast enough or in the right ways to match the new uncertain environment. A global mindset is required to lead.
  • Companies are facing a development challenge, which is the process of growing “bigger” minds and developing more agility in dealing with problems.
  • The environment has changed—it is more complex, volatile, and unpredictable. In a study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, the environment in which leaders must work is characterized by the acronym VUCA. The letters stand for:
  • Volatile: Change happens rapidly and on a large scale
  • Uncertain: The future cannot be predicted with any precision
  • Complex: Challenges are complicated by many factors and there are a few single causes or solutions
  • Ambiguous: There is little clarity on what events mean and what effect they may have

Challenges for Future Leaders

  • Information overload due to complexity and the amount of factors that have an impact on businesses
  • The interconnectedness of systems and business communities
  • The dissolution of traditional organizational boundaries
  • New technologies that disrupt old work practices
  • The different values and expectations of new generations entering the workplace
  • Increased globalization, leading to the need for cross cultural leadership

Skills Required for Future Leaders

  • Reflecting the changes in the environment, especially since the competencies that will be most valuable to future leaders appear to be changing
  • Adaptability/agility
  • Self-awareness
  • Being culturally savvy
  • Constant learning and development
  • Collaboration 
  • Network thinking

Power and Leadership

Power is the ability to get someone to do something he or she would not do otherwise. Having an impact on the behaviors of employees to direct their efforts toward achieving a common goal or a shared vision is what leaders usually aim at. The form of power utilized defines whether the company and employees are being led or managed. In a notable study of power conducted by social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven in 1959, power has been divided into five separate and distinct forms:

  1. Coercive: uses the threat of force to gain compliance
  2. Reward: uses the right of some to offer or deny tangible, social, emotional, or spiritual rewards for others for doing what is wanted or expected of them
  3. Legitimate: uses the authority one has based on his or her position
  4. Referent: is rooted in the belonging one might have to a certain group, while sharing its values and beliefs to a certain extent
  5.  Expert: uses on one’s knowledge, experience, and special skills or talents. Expertise can be demonstrated by reputation, credentials certifying expertise, and actions

With the advent of information technology and knowledge economy, a new form of power gained momentum. Information power comes as a result of possessing knowledge that others need or want. Information can lead to a certain influence, impact decision making, establish credibility, and being in control. Providing rational arguments, using information to persuade others, and using facts and manipulating information can create a power base. The particularity of this form of power is that it is not linked to a position in the organizational chart. Any employee who possesses information that is needed to achieve the organizational goals is powerful. This leads us to a new form of leadership, which is distributed leadership.

When a person suffices oneself with coercive, reward, and legitimate power, one exercises a kind of managerial ability to run the business. However, when power evolves into the expert or informational kind, leadership starts to become more apparent.

Peter Drucker says, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” Leadership can be perceived as a process of social influence that maximizes the efforts of others toward the achievement of organizational goals.


177 thoughts on “Leadership in times of crisis

  1. Being a leader in an organization requires the ability of planning strategically to reach a desired vision. This means having a proactive plan that take into consideration problems and challenges you may face in the future and how to solve them. Plan “B” or action plan are forms showing a responsive plan for an organization. Challenges and problems surely will occur in every organization, whether an exterior ones like Lebanon crises and Covid 19, or an interior challenges inside the organization like weaknesses. Besides strategic planning, it is important for the leaders to admit a flexible personalities opened to every new credible information and ready to learn to find solutions that may decrease the impact of the crises in order to continue. They also need to be supportive and clear, give the employees the needed coaching during the crises to keep them focused. Crises do not ever but effective leadership style by being prepared and enabled with the employees will lead to facing the challenges of any crisis.

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  2. In both certain and uncertain times, it is preferable for leaders to communicate with their coworkers more frequently. Consider sharing your expectations and planning processes with your team, as well as interacting with your financial adviser. As a result, leaders will be actively involved in all discussions but not the only speaker in these conversations because a good leader should also listen to their colleagues. Participation and reviews by the support team Once receiving constructive feedback, be fully accessible and considerate. Recognize pragmatic possibilities and maintain a positive attitude to continue engaging with and responding to team members. Moreover, in these both situations a good leader should be flexible and a good listener by taking into consideration the whole situation around his/her team members. Thus, a leader appears to be completely prepared and organized for such negative issues; he is resourceful and relieves anxiety in order to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

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  3. The digital revolution has changed many of the concepts that prevailed earlier. Now the leader has to keep up with the change and can use all available influences to reach safety.
    The greater the challenges, the greater the need for an exemplary leader who ensures for other leaders in the rest of the fields growth, progress, protection, and keeping pace with the waves of change, and here the stage leader is required to coordinate and innovate to create opportunities. Each stage in its time requires a special and appropriate change because change is continuous, if we accept it or reject it.
    The challenges faced by Lebanon require the creation of real leaders to rise from crises, otherwise collapse is inevitable.
    The leader’s greatest challenge is the future because it is unknown and the leader is rushing towards the future and any failure or decline would be catastrophic. Accordingly, the leader must be more flexible, powerful, fast, full of information, open cultures and expert in dealing with every direction, and to make himself a direction for change.
    Dr. Hasan Yuonies wrote this article that is very close to what we need now.

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  4. Having a well organized management team with spectacular views and up-to-date skills is all what needed for the survival of an organization. Whether we are in uncertain or certain times, companies always need updates and new ideas that support their presence in the competitive work market we live in. For that, it is crucial to have a creative, deep thinker, problem solver, someone that has a far vision, someone who is always prepared with backups. Yes, Lebanon has faced a lot of unpredictable situations ; however almost all companies weren’t equipped with managers that could have came up with fast solutions to minimize the size of disturbance. Managers with traditional leadership competences aren’t enough anymore, updates and learning new skills that suits our century and our fourth industrial revolution is all what takes for surviving and evolving.

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  5. In this volatile period, flexibility is defined as “how adaptable an individual is to the inevitability of change.” The capacity to adapt is a characteristic that you must learn to recognize in others in order to recruit and retain the proper personnel. “The definition of a leader is someone who has followers,” says Peter Drucker. Leadership may be defined as a social influence process that optimizes the efforts of others to accomplish corporate goals. Knowledge that others demand or would like gives you information power. Providing reasoned arguments, using expertise to persuade others, and manipulating facts and information may all contribute to the development of an organization’s power base. As a result, a new style of leadership called as distributed leadership emerges. A successful leader must be prepared to deal with any possible problem. To deal with such challenges, a leader must constantly update himself with fresh knowledge, cultural diversities, methods, and technology, because what worked in the past would not work for today, and the previous generation is not the same as today’s.

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  6. Leadership becomes evident when authorized powers are involved in the business field. Being technologically powerful these days influences individuals and has a great impact on their lives, especially if this power has a significant position, It may change their way of living and even their decisions in life. So the person who distributes information and serves individuals with persistence and authority then he’s able to be a successful manager leading his business to victory.

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  7. The second article “Leadership in times of crisis”:
    The article started by talking about the change that happened in Lebanon right after the revolution of the 17th of October and how that changed the market environment in Lebanon. And right after writing this article Covid-19 pandemic had the same effect on the economy and the market not only in Lebanon but also all over the world. I liked how the writer focused on having leaders who are agile in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) environment and how the leadership style that used to be overwhelming years ago has become outdated in our new world of business. Leaders these days need to equip themselves with so many new skills and capabilities to be able to deal with complex and uncertain circumstances. I also liked how the writer differentiated between the leader, as a trait, who controls others communicating coercive, reward, and legitimate power, and leadership which communicates the expert power.

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  8. what is happing today in Lebanon is because of the absence of good leadership. An effective leader should create a safe and positive atmosphere. A leader should be flexible, social, and emotional. Moreover, the leader should be updated on everything new to get in progress other wise he will be behind. Ledear cant do all crises alone he needs
    collaboration, good communication, and a good network to solve crises. A leader can lead to a certain influence, impact decision-making, establish credibility, and be in control. Accordingly, leaders must be knowledgeable, fast, and collaborative to solve all crises.

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  9. Regarding the second article ,the extraordinary events of 2020 focused attention on leadership and brought the dynamics of Complexity and continuous change into sharp focus as they unfolded intensively and publicly on a global stage. The deep-rooted uncertainties and ambiguities of leadership were suddenly and starkly revealed for all to see. We humans are wired to seek simplicity, routine, and predictability. When we see a problem, we want to be able to implement a simple solution. Our problems, on the other hand, our problems are frequently complex rather than simple. The Covid-19 pandemic could be one of the most difficult environments many of us have ever encountered. Those of us in positions of leadership may experience feelings of frustration and Overwhelm as we juggle multiple demands on our time and deal with situations that have no obvious solutions. This has put leaders under pressure to rise to the occasion. To manage Complexity and the velocity of change, new skills, knowledge, and tools are required. Given the complexities of our modern world, traditional, hierarchical views of leadership are becoming less and less useful. Leadership theory must evolve to account for the complex adaptive needs and Changes that exist today. Although leaders cannot predict all transitions, they can make them go more smoothly by adopting a change-ready mindset and learning skills and competencies that will help them become a better change leader. Every complex situation we encounter becomes part of a framework that strengthens our ability to withstand future complexity, so that complexity becomes more comfortable and less daunting over time. As a result, we can conclude that change is a continuous process, and a good leader is one who can genuinely adapt to such Changes

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  10. In leadership, there exists a trait approach to identify innate qualities and characteristics possessed by social, political, and military leaders. As world, all over, is changing in different fields and situations, leaders should also be updated and not expired. Currently, there are five major leadership traits namely: intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability. These characters are considered to be vital for leaders to come over any challenge and break obstacles toward higher goal achievements. In addition, five gig personality factors found to be as: (1) Neuroticism, which is the tendency to be depressed, anxious, insecure, vulnerable, and hostile. (2) Extraversion, stands to tendency to be social, assertive, and having positive power. (3) Openness, which is tendency to be informed and curious. (4) Agreeableness, or accepting, conforming, trusting, and nurturing others. (5) Conscientiousness, which is the tendency to be through, organized, controlled, dependable, and decisive. All these common leadership traits reveal that leaders are being updated in parallel to the worldwide change. It seems to appear challenging to actively respond to new situations proactively. To achieve so, leaders should have clear visions and mission that consider strategic planning to change any weakness into strength, and being creative in setting future goals and plans.

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  11. There is a trait approach to leadership that identifies innate attributes and features that social, political, and military leaders possess. Leaders should be updated as the world around them changes in various fields and situations. Intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability are the five key leadership attributes now in use. These qualities are seen to be essential for leaders to overcome challenges on their way to achieve higher goals. Five job personality variables were discovered:
    – Neuroticism, which is characterized by feelings of depression, anxiety, insecurity, vulnerability, and hostility.
    – Extraversion refers to a person’s proclivity to be social, forceful, and powerful.
    – Curiosity and openness, which is the tendency to be informed.
    – Acceptance or agreeability, trusting, conforming.
    – Conscientiousness, or the proclivity to be thorough, ordered, controlled, dependable, and determined. All of these common leadership characteristics show that leaders are evolving in tandem with global development. It appears to be difficult to respond to new events in a proactive manner. To do this, leaders must have clear visions and missions that include strategic planning to turn any weakness into a strength, as well as being innovative in defining future goals.

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  12. The world is changing, and the leadership skills required of future leaders will change with it.
    To be a leader in these times, you must be able to balance competing priorities while keeping an eye on the big picture. You must understand how to inspire and motivate others to follow your lead. And, while these skills can help you succeed in any situation, they are especially important when confronted with challenges like the ones we’ve seen in recent years.
    The best way to prepare for future leadership is to learn how to navigate crises now. The more practice you have in leading during times of uncertainty, the better prepared you will be when a crisis occurs!

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  13. As we can see here, being a leader is not an easy thing to do, especially during the crisis.
    Well, being a leader requires high competencies and knowledge which mean technical and conceptual skills in addition to humanistic skills. As we all know that learning is non stop, and leader must always be motivated to learn new concepts and develop specific skills based on his needs, the company needs and business “market labor” needs, not only for him but also for the staff and all the team, this will inspire them to get new and trended ideas thus, raising up the productivity as well as the quality of work. The accumulative experiences developed the innovative thinking and the analytical skills for the leader which help him in solving problems and face the struggles mainly in crisis.
    Leader must always be systemically opened to the surrounding environment locally and internationally and try to investigate new actions in his company, to achieve institution’s goals , fulfill the gaps and develop continuously, this will happen by the participation of the team, where the leader have the power to motivate and boost them towards achieving the required goals.

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  14. This article underlines the significance of improvements in organizations, particularly during challenging times such as crises. First, the article discusses the influence of the crisis right after the Lebanese revolution on the economy of the country. This influence had affected our entire life and routine including leadership. Nonetheless, the global changes and technology urged us to improve our skills and performance to adapt with the trends. All in all, traditional leadership will not work anymore. Thus, this article suggested skills for future leadership such as reflexivity, flexibility, agility, teamwork skills and critical thinking. Even, the concept of leadership has changed, as the article presented new terms such as distributed leadership, in which power is shared based on knowledge rather than being held by a single individual. Power is determined by who has knowledge, not who has authority which represents information power.

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  15. The article is so attractive for Lebanese citizens in particular, it discusses a major problem of the country and its leaders. If one reads between the lines, he can understand a hidden message about the type of leaders needed, especially for our country. It is a message for leaders of organizations and future leaders to change, follow the trend, and reform especially during difficult periods like crisis. The article begins by discussing the impact of the crisis that occurred shortly after the revolution on the country’s economy. This effect had an impact on all aspects of our lives. Overall, traditional leadership will no longer be effective. It was fascinating to read an article that highlighted modern problems. Being a leader requires high competencies, knowledge, in addition to humanistic skills.
    Besides strategic planning, it is important for the leaders to admit flexible personalities, be ready to learn, and find creative solutions that may decrease the impact of the crisis in order to survive. The crisis affected almost every model of business in Lebanon. This article, if understood thoroughly, is a reform plan for current leaders and techniques for future leaders. It is examining leadership using a critical lens to develop a new meaning for it that aligns with the new era.

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  16. Crises and pandemics helps us knowing the successful leaders and resilient companies and help us distinguishes them. Usually the shock help us in some places and it reminds the HR managers that they still alive and they can boost up its performance. Ford produced mechanical ventilators, UK country wide fitness offerings went for on line appointment, and lots of extra is taking vicinity now. Behind all this are leaders who added their groups up, believed in them, and stepped out in their manner after empowering them. The concept of disbursed electricity is something really well worth citing and noting. In properly evolved management mindset, this isn’t a danger however an asset to the organization.

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  17. The entire world is undergoing changes and challenges, whether in terms of health or economics. These challenges are imposing new lifestyles and approaches in all life domains, and this is also applicable to leadership concept, which has changed and is now seen beyond having an effect on other individuals. The crises, the world in general and Lebanon in particular are experiencing, gave leadership a new perspective that enables leaders in the different domains to collaborate with the staff and work as a team to defeat any challenges and pass through the crises. Surviving a critical crisis is not only the leader’s responsibility; it is a collective responsibility that every member of the team shares and has a role to play in getting things back on track. When leaders feel with their staff, support them, and appreciate their efforts, staff is encouraged, empowered, and will continue working through any crises. Positive awareness of the situation and comprehension of its implications will make it easier for employees to maintain an effective impact on their work.
    Because crises never end, but rather pass over, effective leaders must always be prepared and enable their staff to stand for and face the challenges of any crisis.

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  18. The fact that the only constant in life is change always rings a bell to search for a change in all domains of life.Considering the ongoing entropy in the universe, we are all urged to search for new methods, styles, and equipment to survive this changing universe.
    The article here narrows the general idea of change to highlight on the vital need to work on developing and improving leadership to maintain successful businesses under the pressure of crisis that we’re going through.
    Each person should be always triggered to maintain new forms of leadership, where each person in her/his specific position is a leader indeed, regardless of the position in the organizational chart.
    Any person with good convincing power and unique charismatic character that attracts good number of followers, is said to be a successful leader.
    Remember, we are all leaders and each is responsible for her/his followers.

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  19. All that is required for an organization’s existence is a wellorganized management staff with breathtaking views and up-to-date talents.
    Companies always require updates and fresh ideas to sustain their existence in the competitive job market we live in, whether we are in uncertain or definite times.
    It is critical to have a creative, deep thinker, problem solver, someone with a long-term vision, and someone who is constantly prepared with backups for this.
    Yes, Lebanon has experienced many unanticipated scenarios; nevertheless, practically all businesses lacked managers capable of quickly devising solutions to reduce the scale of the disruption.
    Traditional leadership abilities are no longer sufficient; managers must update and develop new skills that are relevant to our century and our workforce.

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  20. In times of crisis, leaders are put up with extra burdens of responsibility but they are still responsible for their firms and organizations and for their success and failure. A leader is never successful if he does not cope with change.
    Our country has went through A LOT since 17 October and even after this article was written. A massive explosion hit Beirut that destroyed more than 50% of its territory and 100% of Lebanese people’s hearts. Leaders, managers, and people in power were held responsibility for having this country stand up on its feet again before thinking of even moving forward or seeking change. Such cases are challenging for everyone, especially when this case is accompanied by economic and political crises that hit our systems in parallel.
    The characteristics of leaders mentioned in the article are very essential for every manager in any organization and not only leaders who seek change and development. For these reasons, we go back to the idea of delegation of authority where leaders actually behave as ones and not as Goddesses who expect their employees or subordinates to worship them blindly and thinking that they are able to overcome all crises that were mentioned above.
    When leaders believe in their team members, this confidence they provide to them will help them overcome and even anticipate whatever kinds of conflicts they may face!

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  21. Crisis might happen in every country, that’s why a good leader is required to be able to deal with these problems. Let’s take Lebanon as an example, as we can see most of the companies have been closed because they didn’t have enough skills to skip the economic crisis.
    So, a leader should always have an action plan and a well organized strategy including all the backup plans for all cases and problems they might face. That’s why it’s important that the leader communicate with his team and discuss his plans so they can share opinions and learn from each other new skills and knowledge.

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  22. This article written in 2020, is taking into consideration the symptoms of a disfunctional economical and political structure, that one symptom captured between only 17 October 2019 and to the date of uploading the above article in January 18 2020 (beginning of the Libanese Lira Depreciation) , is a timeframe where the main problem pushed on the firms are uncertainty and the fear of economical imbalance, we can say that then it was easier than today to deal with fear and implant hope, a good leader would have tried to create some out of the box methods to uphold financial security adding to that a dialogue of sustainability and clearance. But today, May 2022, after the end of corona’s lockdown and the port explosion, adding to that HUNDREDS of wrong decisions concluded by the secterian leaders through governmental tools, refusing the Lazar plan, to protect the shares and properties of bank owners on the back of all depositors, proposing solutions like paying back the depositors by taking the money from the Lebanese central bank that can lead to selling public properties, eventually drowning an entire society, the same society that will be tricked to silence with some of their dollars given back after being stolen for years, the same society is supposed to function again in firms and companies, while their entire social net, public schools and universities, hospitals and simple services like electricity and water are condemned to disappear or to become too expensive to have sustainably, one small tricky hope has appeared one day before the government became a caretaker government was the signing of the framework toward an economical revival that was proposed by the IMF, that could change the equation against the banks, but I call it tricky,cause the timing only means that the prime minister is trying to get the satisfaction of the IMF for a renued prime ministry title. I had to say all of the above to show that hope could be regenerated even now, and leadership is now survivalship, if any firm needs to survive, they either should leave the country or induce change by abiding with the side that actually has a future.

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  23. In Lebanon, there is no clear vision and the real strategic goals are completely absent. So how can we expect the presence of future leaders and provide the conditions for preparing a generation of talented and strong youth to lead the nation in the future?

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  24. The Lebanese crisis affects all the economic cycle , leaderships were so effective and trendy, but after the crises 2019-2022 present leaders starts to be not effective and not responding the good work due to low salaries with more hours of work.
    Also the leaderships in the NGO’s start to hire unqualified people due to nepotism.

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