Leadership in a crisis - common traits and the importance of soft and transferable skills

Date: 29 April 2020

Author: Imogen Sanders, Senior Consultant at Perrett Laver

In this first of a series of blogs looking at leadership in the current crisis, Imogen Sanders highlights some of the skills and characteristics that will be indispensable at the top of organisations.


Strong, contemporary governance has never been as critical as during this current unprecedented crisis. Undoubtedly, those organisations that have invested time and effort in developing this leadership layer and, critically, a positive board culture will see dividends as, whilst the future is uncertain, effective scrutiny and support remain predictors of success.

During the past few weeks, boards have been required to mitigate acute uncertainty and significant immediate risks. Against a backdrop of closures and cancellations, diminished workforces, uncertain income streams, and tested morale, we have seen Directors across all sectors make swift decisions. Furthermore, these decisions have had to be enacted in highly unfamiliar contexts, often with limited access to signatories, and collaborating and debating across virtual platforms. In battling the day-to-day of this new reality, they are also having to prepare their organisations for the future. Directors have had to be decisive and agile to move through the now, yet focused on the future and creative in considering innovation.

The challenges presented by this pandemic have also called for heightened accountability of the Executive and leadership teams. Lockdown has necessitated expert and nuanced scrutiny, balanced with unquestionable empathy and support, all from a distance. In times where many CEOs are making monumental decisions that could impact the future of an organisation, boards have had to be alert and vigilant, yet highly compassionate and available across screens and phone lines without stepping on toes.

As uncertainty and remote working continue as the new norms, it is our belief that many of the “soft” and “transferable” skills so

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