We’ve all learned a lot about managing during the pandemic. COVID forced many business leaders to make significant decisions during challenging times. In the past, we might have spent weeks or months analyzing data or evaluating key decisions, while during the pandemic we had to make those same decisions in minutes.

Successful leaders have learned to be more flexible, adaptable, and resilient. Those are lessons that will likely serve us well into the future.

A study of more than 21,000 leaders published in the Harvard Business Review reinforced exactly these traits. Researchers isolated four behaviors that leaders need to adopt and cultivate in their teams:

  1. Speed over precision
  2. Bold adaptation
  3. Deliver reliably
  4. Engage and care for your team

Speed Over Precision

In tough times, things often change rapidly. The best leaders pull together the best information they have on hand quickly, determine what is most important, and make decisions — with conviction. They recognize that information is incomplete and that not everyone will agree with what’s been decided.

Leaders have to suppress their normal tendency to do deep analysis, gather more data, and build consensus.

Successful business leaders need to:

  • Define priorities
  • Assess the necessary trade-offs
  • Establish decision-making authority
  • Act quickly

Not every decision will be perfect, so it is also important not to punish mistakes. As more information surfaces, it may change the decisions you make.

Bold Adaptation

Successful business leaders stay ahead of the evolving circumstances. They are constantly seeking input from a diversity of voices, seek counsel from outside experts, and admit freely when there is something they don’t know.

Just as important as prioritizing what actions to take, it is just as important to decide what actions not to take. During tough times, you may need to put other plans on hold to focus on what’s needed now.

Your adaptation should include:

  • A reassessment of your current plans
  • A recognition that what worked in the past may no longer work in the future
  • New plans of attack to manage through tough times
  • Understand what’s happening with frontline workers at the lowest levels of your organization

Deliver Reliably

Even though there are many factors outside their control, strong leaders take personal ownership during tough times. They may delegate some decisions, but they recognize they have the ultimate responsibility.

They also work to make sure team members understand what’s required, align team focus, and create a culture for accountability to deliver on what’s required.

This includes:

  • Honest, direct, open, and consistent communication with team members
  • Setting KPIs to measure team performance
  • Take a hands-on approach to driving changes

Engage and Care for Your Team

During tough times, you need to engage more frequently with your team and demonstrate that you care about them. This goes beyond empathy. Successful business leaders know that people are more important than processes when it comes to success.

Successful leaders make time to:

  • Connect directly with individual team members at all levels of the organization
  • Seek feedback and guidance from all levels
  • Offer support and assistance where needed
  • Engage both internal stakeholders (employees) and external stakeholders (customers)

Even during challenging times, it’s important to project positivity and amplify positive messages within your organization to keep your team motivated.

Tough Times Define Leadership

During difficult times, your team will be looking to you — and depending on you — to provide guidance. The actions you take will have a direct impact on your success or failure.

Tough times define leadership. Rise to the challenge.