C-Suite Network™

What Executive Leaders Should Do During TOUGH Times

Many people are dealing with what can seem like insurmountable challenges right now – maybe you’re dealing with the aftermath of floods/wildfires/hurricanes/tornadoes/(insert your natural disaster here), economic woes, layoffs, or extreme budget cuts. Your team may just flat out not be getting along or working together productively.

While I wouldn’t say that being an effective executive leader is ever easy, I think we’d agree that serving as the top dog during prosperous times is a whole lot more fun than leading during tough times. Being a true senior leader is all about being able to rise to the occasion during those challenging times.

Don’t forget that in uncertain times, you are not the only one who’s stressed. Your team members likely have a tremendous amount of anxiety and as those negative emotions run high, they may vent their frustrations at a co-worker or colleague. As the stress continues, often fatigue and hopelessness set in.

Sorry to be such a “Betty Buzzkill,” but I do offer some remedies.  If you’re on the struggle bus, here are a few tips for dealing with the aforementioned adversity – and/or for anytime you want to be a better leader or just a decent human being.

1. Lighten up. Go see a funny movie or watch a sitcom, serve pizza or po’boys at lunch. Make sure that you take time for yourself to have fun, relax, and recharge your batteries. See my last blog on this one.

2. Be kind and compassionate. Obviously. Everyone is fighting battles that we know nothing about. Use empathy and put yourself in her shoes.

3. Communicate early and often. Now is not the time to hunker down in your office/bunker. Share information, be accessible to your people, and listen to the concerns of your team members.

4. Show interest and concern for each team member. Ask how his family is doing, what challenges he’s facing, and what specific help he needs. Everyone wants to feel empowered and in control. Focus on what action he can take and help him to identify appropriate ways of dealing with the challenges.

5. Be as transparent as possible. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit that you don’t know. When you have less than positive news/developments to share, do so directly and with respect for how it will impact members of your team.

6. Get scrappy. This is the time to search for more innovative solutions. Get your team involved and tap into their creativity. Get them talking and brainstorming. This is a great way to get and keep them engaged, too. See my previous blog post, Make Your Meetings Meaningful.

7. Exercise. To burn off stress – and all those beignets you ate because you were stressed out. The endorphins will do you a world of good. Encourage your team members to do the same. Why not have a walking meeting?

8. Get enough sleep. Easier said than done, I know. But hopefully, all that exercise will make you tired so you’ll sleep like a baby. Nobody wants to deal with a cranky, sleep-deprived leader during tough times.

9. Spend time with family and friends – but not if they’re the ones causing you stress! Make it a point to be around people who lift you up and make you feel good about yourself. Rather than join the “ain’t it awful club,” surround yourself with positive people who are prone to taking action rather than sitting around whining about the situation.

10. Appreciate and thank others for their efforts. Make a commitment to thank or recognize someone (or three or five someones) each day before your head hits the pillow. I know you’ve heard about the research that indicates that gratitude is a powerful antidote to feeling “meh.” So do it.

Of course there are mornings that you wish you were Don Draper from Madmen so you could pour yourself a drink at 9:00 AM, but sadly, my friend, that would likely only make matters worse. Hopefully, these tips will help you to see these tough times as an opportunity to become a stronger, more effective leader.

Remember that as a leader, you are being watched! You are the role model, the example that others will follow. If you are determined and focused on the positive, likely your team will follow your lead.


  • How do you keep your team engaged during tough times?
  • What actions would you add to this list?
  • Post a comment below and share your experiences with our community.

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You might also like:

For Leadership Success – Give Your Power Away

How to Redirect the Company Culture Ship

How Leaders Can Patiently and Gently Keep Their Team on Track

Jennifer Ledet, CSP, is a leadership consultant and professional speaker (with a hint of Cajun flavor) who equips leaders from the boardroom to the mailroom to improve employee engagement, teamwork, and communication.  In her customized programs, leadership retreats, keynote presentations, and breakout sessions, she cuts through the BS and talks through the tough stuff to solve your people problems.


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