3 Crisis Leadership Faux-Pas You Might Be Guilty Of


COVID-19 has inevitably sunk countless businesses, bankrupted others, and left many others struggling to stay afloat in its wake.

For all the failed corporate strategies and tanked business models, though, there are others still that have effectively ridden the wave towards safety and financial viability. More often than not, the crucial difference between the two has been in terms of crisis leadership.


A lot of the time, though, leaders may end up committing grave mistakes that have dire adverse consequences, both in terms of lowering employee morale and unknowingly choosing stagnation over adaptability. Here are 3 such grave leadership faux-pas you might be guilty of.

P.S. Learn what it takes to make your organisation crisis-proof: sign up for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on contributing towards a learning organisation today!


1. Choosing toxic positivity over transparency

Times of crises are, by definition, periods of heightened volatility and relative uncertainty. They throw metaphorical spanners in the cogs of the well-oiled machinery that is corporate strategy. Leading your team successfully through a crisis, then, calls for greater transparency and open communication, above all else.

It may be tempting to say you have all the answers and solutions at any given moment, but the reality is that pulling through a crisis may feel a lot like you’re navigating through a heavy fog.


In such situations, people want to know that their leader is trustworthy and dependable. False and undependable reassurances may do more damage to this than any other crisis leadership behaviour.

Playing down the risks and possible short-term and long-term repercussions of a given crisis only compounds the existing lack of clarity brought about by the crisis in the first place. As a 2015 INSEAD crisis leadership study of the BP oil spill concluded, “being held as we work through a crisis is more useful than being told how bright the future is.”


2. Infrequent or bad communication with coworkers

Given the sheer unpredictability of a crisis, employees would generally be much more susceptible to fear, failure, neglect, and panic. It may also lead to more reactive behaviour than usual. The combination of reactivity and fear makes it easy for misinformation, miscommunication, and misunderstandings to occur between superiors and subordinates.


Crisis leadership therefore necessitates that leaders make it a point to check in with their people more frequently than usual, and to make a genuine effort towards actively listening to employees’ concerns in order to better assuage their worries. After all, reassuring different employees about different concerns often requires different strategies.

Doing the opposite of this, however, tends to make people feel taken for granted and that they’re not being taken care of as employees and as human beings.



3. Rigidity & reluctance to grant decision-making autonomy

Organisational rigidity has spelt disaster for so many companies in the wake of the global pandemic. With the future still so uncertain, agility and adaptability remains a critical determining factor in the effectiveness of organisational responses to COVID-19.


To that end, leaders who remain reluctant to decentralise decision-making, sticking instead to strictly top-down, unilateral chains of command may end up unknowingly jeopardising their crises responses.

Volatile times call for greater employee autonomy to facilitate quicker and more efficient continuous adjustments to strategy in the short run.


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