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3 ways to lead through times of fear & uncertainty

blog progress Mar 07, 2023

Note: this post was originally published during the Covid-19 pandemic, ca March 2020.


"We have never seen anything like this."

At the time of this writing, the COVID-19 Virus has been labeled a “pandemic”, businesses are suspending operations or working remotely, churches are scrambling to figure out how to hold gatherings, America is essentially closed, and we’re hearing statements like the above consistently.

The word "unprecedented" is being used a lot.

Uncertainty is at an all time high.

Many stabilizing forces in our world feel unstable.

Uncertainty, unprecedented times, and unstable futures tend to spark feelings of fear in the people and teams we lead.

So what do you do?

What’s a leader’s responsibility during moments like this?

You’re in charge, what are people looking to you for?

In a word: Leadership. 

This is what you signed up for. While none of us saw this moment coming, this moment is what you are here for. In moments of crisis, leaders lead. When everyone else feels crippled by fear, this is your time to courageously move people forward. 


I heard it said recently that “The inconvenient often becomes the vehicle through which the impossible becomes the inevitable.”

I believe this season of inconvenience and fear can be leveraged if you will posture your leadership in three ways. Here are 3 things you can do as the leader to help people fight fear and achieve what may seem imposible…


#1 = Be a voice and a presence of peace

During tense times followers take their emotional cues from leaders. The person in room with the most peace is often the person in room with the most influence.

In your meetings, give extra time to encourage your team. They are thinking about providing for their families and protecting their health.

Speak words of calm and peace.

Carry a calm demeanor.


Of course, be your authentic self, share your concerns and create urgency… but as the leader, lead with peace. Especially in seasons of chaos, people follow people of peace more than people with a position. 


#2 = Ignite passion

I read recently that “Passion obliterates panic.” When we point to something larger to live and work for, it has a way of eclipsing the tensions of the moment. It’s why people dive into work or hobbies to alleviate stress.

Take extra time to feed the dreams of the people on your team. Feed people’s need to be seen, heard and cared for. Point to the “why” behind your work.

In this time of national crisis, reframe your "why" in a manner that connects to today. Remember, those who are passionate about something are less likely to be those who panic about everything. 


#3 = Bring practical solutions

Inspiration matters. In fact, right now, it is an essential.

That said, people you lead need to some practical “hows” during a crisis as well. Practical leadership doesn’t mean you have to provide a roadmap all the way to the end goal. No one expects you to predict the future, but you do need provide the first step or two.

Sit down with your team and map out one day at a time.

Start by giving clarity for today.

Set short term priorities.

Define, as Stephen Covey says, what the “big rocks” that matter most are.

The next right thing to do being made clear serves as an anchor to our team. Keeping people clearly focused on what’s next guards people from being fearfully consumed with what may never come to be. 


An example

At the church my family attends, our pastor is leading us through this “unprecedented” time. The most practical thing he did on Sunday was give us homework for the week of reading Psalm 91 everyday as a personal prayer.

Did he tell us how we’re going to survive this health crisis?


Did he say what to do about the stock market?


Did he give me the plan to protect my business?


But he did give me a practical next step to focus my energies on.

Lead your team through the fear they feel and the season they find themselves in by bringing similarly practical solution, igniting and fueling passion in your team, and being a leader guided by peace. 

It takes courage to lead. 

This is your moment. 

You can do this. 

I’m cheering you on. 

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