We’re in an unprecedented time — the world is trying to get its arms around the Coronavirus, the economy has taken a hit,and people are suffering. Leadership is important when things are good, but when things are troubled and uncertain leadership is vital. In times of crisis, others need to know who you are and what you stand for. Your consistency of character can bring comfort to others—they will have one more thing they can predict, and one less thing to worry over.  Keep in mind: Your values are the rudder that will guide you through these rough seas and uncharted waters.

When times are turbulent, volatile, and difficult, it can be challenging to know the right path, but using the Five Practices of Values Based Leadership (VBL) as a compass enables leaders to see their true north.

The first practice—Building Awareness—is about seeking feedback and keeping the mirror close.  When we are making decisions quickly, trying to act on fast moving events, it is easy to forget what we stand for. The more strain and stress you and your team experience, the more you are at risk of acting out of character or even damaging your trust and credibility.   Take a moment and ask yourself, how aware are you right now of the impact your words and actions have on others? Awareness ensures that you’re not snapping at the people you care about most or secluding yourself when you need to be out in present.

The second practice—Realizing Potential—is primarily focused on our purpose and becoming the best version of ourselves.  Don’t forget that even in the hardest times, there are opportunities.  Keep your mind open to what’s possible. Perhaps you have a team that’s always struggled using technology and now they’re being forced to become digitally savvy and are thriving, or you might discover a new product or a new niche that you’d never before considered in your business. It’s not all going to be puppies and kittens, but exclusively focusing on the downside and the negativity is not going to move us forward.

The third practice—Developing Relationships—is critical in times of uncertainty. People need each other right now, and unfortunately our communities have been severed and we’re at real risk of being isolated. Stay connected even at a distance. Digitally check in with people and see how they’re doing. Make sure they feel connected and cared for. Having a sense of normalcy, connection and community is just as important now as it ever is.

The fourth practice—Taking Action, means leading with courage.  There are challenging choices ahead and some tough calls that will have to be made. In times of crisis, the worst thing you can do is spend too much time planning behind closed doors in hopes of finding the magic bullet. It is better to act, and adjust as you go, then to wait for the perfect solution.   Chances are, there is no perfect solution, and something is better than nothing.

And then finally, the fifth practice—Practicing Reflection, means pausing to learn.  This current climate of ambiguity and adversity is going to teach us a lot about ourselves, our organizations, and our society. Once we have weathered the storm—because no storms are forever—we will have the opportunity to learn from our choices, to look back and ask:

  • Did my choices align with my values?
  • Did I have the impact I wanted to have?
  • Did I move closer to my purpose, even through this time of difficulty?
  • What have I learned, and how will I apply those lessons in the future?

Give yourself grace and consider this time as a chance to grow and develop as a human and as a leader.


Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

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