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Leading Through Difficult Times: Top Tips for Managers

Maria Petit

Leadership is not a prize you can get from a cereal box. It takes hard work, determination, and a strong vision to be an effective leader. On top of that leadership is even more crucial for success during hard times, as it shows you how to lead through the ups and downs of life.

As a manager, you must provide guidance and support to your team, especially during challenging moments. In this blog post, we will discuss top tips for leading your team through a rough patch. Keep reading!

When deciding to step up as a leader of a team de facto you know you will deal with a hard time eventually. It can be a small, transient situation or it can be a huge storm. For most people, tough times can be considered a loss, yet these situations serve as a door to the question: Was the leadership model the cause of the current crisis? 

If yes, the path to regaining control cannot simply be a repetition of former practices. If not, good for you and your leadership standards! However, in both scenarios, you must decide how to lead your team through this difficult time. 

Remember that from a social constructivist perspective, leadership is “a socially constructed phenomenon whose meaning “may vary considerably across time and across businesses”

Following this concept, leadership styles can vary depending on your company’s status. Are you a startup? Then, strategic leadership would fit best. On the other hand, paternal o maternal leadership is common for family-owned businesses. If you are wondering which one fits you best, let’s review some other types!

Types of Leadership

  1. Transformational Leadership: This type of leadership is focused on inspiring and motivating team members, especially during hard times. 
  2. Transactional Leadership: In this leadership style the focus is on achieving goals through specific tasks.
  3. Laissez-faire Leadership: This type of leadership is characterized by low or no involvement in directing team members.
  4. Situational Leadership: This leadership focuses on being flexible. It requires the leader to adjust their style according to the team’s situation or circumstance.
  5. Strategic Leadership: This type of leadership is focused on creating a long-term vision and executing plans to achieve those goals. 
  6. Autocratic Leadership: This one is mostly applied at the executive level and it’s a top-down approach where decisions are made by a single leader without consulting team members’ opinions. 
  7. Charismatic Leadership: This type of leadership revolves around the leader’s charm and persuasive nature, which helps create an emotional connection with team members. 
  8. Coach Leadership: This leader is focused on motivating and inspiring team members while providing them with feedback, support, and guidance. 
  9. Democratic Leadership: This type of leadership is based on democratic principles, which empower employees to participate in decision-making. 
  10. Pacesetter Leadership: This type of leadership focuses on setting high expectations for team members and setting an example with tangible actions.
  11. Servant Leadership: The leader serves as a mentor, putting employees’ needs first while focusing on their progress. 
  12. Paternal/Maternal Leadership: This type of leadership is based on a family-like culture and it’s focused on providing team members with structure, support, and guidance. 

Can you place yourself or your business on the above list? If so, great! If not, don’t worry. The best way to find out the leadership style that works for you is by testing different approaches in different contexts. You can read one of our blog posts on leadership development here.

These contexts can include hard times, thus let’s check the tips you need to lead effectively.

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Leadership during Difficult Times: Top Tips for Managers

Leading a team through hard times requires resilience, patience, and perseverance. Here are some tips for managers leading their teams during tough times:

Acknowledge the Reality

Acknowledging the reality of a situation can be the hardest part, but it is also the most critical step when attempting to lead a company through difficult times. For companies to weather a crisis, leaders must be willing to accept and confront what is out of their control and look inward for areas in which they can take action. 

As a leader, accepting the crisis allows you to strategize with clarity as well as create opportunities for positive outcomes even within difficult circumstances. As leaders, we should remember that no matter how difficult or unpredictable a situation can seem, acknowledging the reality from the beginning will always help provide a solid foundation from which you can work towards progress.

Take Responsibility 

Responsibility is not about blaming or pointing fingers at people, but rather it is about being accountable and taking ownership of the situation. 

Empowering yourself and your team to take ownership of the situation is key. Leaders must be willing to take responsibility for not only their successes but also potential failures or missteps during times of difficulty. 

Learn to say “I was wrong, how can I fix it?”

Taking responsibility is not just about admitting mistakes, but also recognizing areas where you can support and assist within a crisis – whether it’s taking on additional work or taking extra hours to ensure everything is getting put back on track.

On the other hand, leadership during such difficult periods must ensure that things stay afloat and operations are maintained. It may be a hard time, but the company must keep going!

Establish Clear Priorities

Once you have acknowledged the reality of difficult times, you need to establish clear priorities for your team, what needs to be accomplished, and how it can be done.

Setting goals and expectations for your company is the best way to ensure that employees remain focused on what matters most

The first and most important tip for success is to remain organized at all times. Creating to-do lists that detail tasks in order of importance, creating a filing system that works best for the team’s specific needs, and ensuring deadlines are met regularly go a long way in keeping things running smoothly. 

Leaders should take the time to explain clearly why certain tasks are important and how they will fit into achieving long-term goals. This not only ensures that everyone is on the same page but also helps to keep morale up in difficult times. 

Be Open to Change

Sometimes, leaders have a hard time accepting things must change. However, to face a hard time you must be ready and comfortable with disruption and trial-and-error, and then model that behavior for others.

Be open-minded and willing to adopt new strategies

Yet, what happens when as a leader you are ready to execute said change, but your team is not? The Center for Creative Leadership has some cues to handle this situation:

Be Honest with the Team

Hiding the “bad news” from your team is a NO go. Maybe you don’t want to worry them and you believe you can deal with the situation by yourself. First, every single member of your team is entitled to know what’s going on. Second, you are not alone!

Explain the reasons behind the crisis, and make sure to tell them that you have faith in their abilities to make the necessary adjustments. Working together is the only way out of a difficult situation, and honesty will help to strengthen the team in facing challenges.

Create a Sense of Community

Now, we reaffirm you are not alone. Creating a sense of community is essential for any team that wants to make it through difficult times. 

We don’t hold the mindset that leaders walked alone anymore. Leaders should always involve themselves and their teams in the process of finding creative solutions and collaborating. This helps to foster a positive environment that supports effective communication and encourages individuals to help one another during hard times. 

  • Listen to your team, breaking down barriers between colleagues that would otherwise exist.
  • Encourage cooperation and collaboration within the team; clearly define expectations for both leaders and members of the group.
  • Provide resources and training needed for members to be successful in their jobs
  • Recognize excellence in the work achieved by members of the group.
  • Promote respect, appreciation, and unity among all members.

Get Professional Help, If Necessary

If the situation is far too complex, it may be a good idea to seek out professional help. Whether it’s a business coach or consultant to offer advice and support, or a therapist if you have difficulty dealing with extreme stress and anxiety – getting outside help can be key in navigating difficult times.

When you need to take this decision:

  • Determine the kind of professional help your team needs, whether it’s a coach to help with organization and goal setting, or a consultant to offer guidance on specific tasks.
  • Obtain references and research their qualifications before hiring them.
  • Set out clear expectations at the onset of working together.
  • Schedule regular check-ins and reviews to determine if the goals and objectives are being met.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Hard Decisions

Sometimes, the only way out of a difficult time is to make hard decisions. These can be anything from reorganizing teams and processes to reducing staff or hours.

When confronted with these kinds of decisions:

  • Be prepared to explain the reasoning behind your decision and encourage constructive feedback from your team. 
  • Ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities in the process.
  • Set out clear guidelines for how tasks should be handled going forward.
  • Take a moment to understand the impact of your decision and make sure that you’re taking into account all possible consequences.
  • Allow the team to offer their insights, as well as ask questions, so they can better understand the situation. 
  • Finally, think about any resources that may be needed to help individuals cope with the change!

Stay Grounded and Optimistic

Take a step back and remind yourself that, despite the difficulty of the situation, you are still a leader. Keep your head up, look for the positives, and remain focused on what is possible. It’s essential to stay grounded in the present moment and be realistic about any potential pitfalls or obstacles that you may face.

At the same time, stay optimistic about the future and take pleasure in the successes of your team. Remember to recognize individual efforts and thank employees for their dedication and perseverance during hard times. Laughter can go a long way in lightening the mood and providing some much-needed relief from stress. 

Crisis Management Department: Surfing the Emergency

As a piece of advice, businesses should look for setting up a crisis management department – or even an emergency response team. This team is an integral part of being prepared for any unexpected situation. 

The responsibilities should be split up among different people and departments, so that everyone understands their role and how they need to act in the event of a disaster. 

Don’t wait up for the disaster to actually do something! As most doctors used to say: better to prevent than heal, right?

  • Take the necessary steps to ensure that the team is prepared for any emergency.
  • Create an emergency response plan and assign roles and responsibilities within the team.
  • Organize regular drills and simulations to test procedures in different scenarios.
  • Make sure everyone has access to information about emergency contacts and resources needed for emergencies.
  • Keep track of lessons learned from previous emergencies.
  • Don’t forget to review and update the plan regularly.

By putting in place a crisis management strategy, you can ensure that your team is ready for any eventuality, no matter how difficult the circumstances may be. Make sure to check the boxes on the checklist below!


Leading through difficult times can be hard and overwhelming. That said, by following some of the tips above, you can make sure that your team remains cohesive and motivated to overcome any challenge in their path. Remember – there is strength in numbers! 

With these tips, leaders can find success in difficult times by remaining organized, being open to change, encouraging a sense of community among their team, and seeking out professional help when necessary. By leading with resilience and strength during hard times, teams will have the best chance of coming out on top. 

At Monitask, we are committed to helping you thrive and become the best manager. Here, you can read another one of our blog posts about the best practices for solving business challenges. Good luck! 

-The Monitask Team

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