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Brain circuits

Three things leaders who are prepared to survive a crisis understand

Published 17 November 2021 in Brain circuits • 2 min read

In every crisis there are winners and losers, so we have spent a lot of time talking to and researching leaders who have been successful in times of crisis. There are three key things these leaders understand that you should embrace when your company faces tough times.

  1. Resource mobility: Leaders who are successful in times of crisis have the ability to move people around to other areas as need arrives and have developed an ability to see where those resources need to go.
  2. Strategic sensitivity: This is the ability for a leader to understand what the priority is right now. We cannot run after everything, so we need to make choices. In times of crisis, you need to focus on a couple of key priorities to survive.
  3. Global commitment: This means that within the organization once a decision has been made, even if we disagree with that decision, we will all follow it.

It is a terrible situation to haggle over a decision in a meeting and then come out of the meeting and keep debating. Debate needs to end. Once the decision is made, people need to get behind it. Democracy in the meeting phase is good, but in the execution phase zero democracy is better. In other words, there should be high democracy in decision-making and zero democracy in execution. You must come to the best decision possible based on the information you have, and then act on it, even though you might be wrong.

If you have these three factors firmly under control, you can lead your company effectively through even the toughest crisis.


Sameh Abadir

Professor of Leadership and Negotiation at IMD

Sameh Abadir is Professor of Leadership and Negotiation at IMD. He advises companies on negotiations and runs negotiation workshops in English, French and Arabic. He has recently directed custom programs for Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, Jerónimo Martins, ArcelorMittal, and Merck, and he is Director of IMD’s Crisis Management online program. He was Co-Director of IMD’s signature program Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP) and Co-Director of IMD’s Negotiating for Value Creation (NVC) open programs.


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