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Over the past two weeks, I’ve been talking to my coaching clients about their “leadership moments.” These aren’t big-stage events (who’s having those anyway?) but the smaller, subtle opportunities they have to show up as the leader they want to be during this time of uncertainty.

It comes down to leading with empathy – making sure you are engaging in transparent communication, being authentic, and truly listening. From those tenets, here are three tips for showing up for others – and yourself – to create defining leadership moments:

1. Over-communicate.

There is no such thing as too much communication in times of uncertainty. Pause right now and think about your inbox over the past three weeks…how many emails have you received from CEO’s of OTHER companies, like Philz and Nordstrom, letting you know how they are handling the pandemic? How about emails from your OWN company? And if you’re a leader, have YOU sent emails to your team? You don’t have to have all the answers. Sometimes leaders fear communicating when they don’t have the answers – but in the absence of communication, people will create their own stories. So be transparent, over-communicate, tell people what you know and what you haven’t made decisions on yet, and repeat. You showing up over and over and over again – in your written and verbal words - is critical, and will help you define yourself as a leader.

2. Be real.

Something I’ve heard from clients over the past few weeks is how much they’ve enjoyed having a window into the “real” live of their colleagues’. The color of the walls, the furniture in the background, and the kids in and out of the room round out the picture of who you are as a person and a leader. Don’t ignore what’s going on around you – and what might be going on for others. Instead, add that human element to your virtual conversations and email. Ask people how they’re doing and really listen to the answers. Understand when children barge in or if your team has to adapt their work hours to manage what’s going on at home. Offer ways for your team to connect beyond work. Many teams are engaging in virtual happy hours or lunch as a way to build camaraderie. Show up as the rounded-out version of yourself and authentically engage with your team – they’ll appreciate you for it.

3. Listen – to yourself and what you need.

There is no playbook for “how to lead during a pandemic,” but there are best practices in leadership. One of them is to be in touch with what you need and to take care of yourself so you can show up as the leader you want to be. Some very practical tips for taking care of yourself right now are to…

  • Engage in a daily routine that mimics your usual work routine. Shower. Put on “work clothes.” Go “out” to lunch. Work-out or recreate how you have downtime.

  • Protect your schedule. Back-to-back virtual meetings might seem like an efficient use of time but you will be exhausted after two hours. You need breaks to get up and stretch, eat, unwind, go for a walk. Try to change all one-hour meetings to 50 minutes.

  • Have an end time for the day. It’s easy to let your work bleed into all hours of your day and night. Finish your work day and step away from the phone and computer for a while.

Listen to your head, heart, and body – if your mind is racing, if you are feeling overwhelmed, if you stomach is unsettled – these might be signs that you aren’t taking care of yourself and showing yourself the empathy and compassion you would most likely show others. Do what you need to become centered so that you can show up as present with others.

And now, look at your week. Your leadership moments are waiting for you. What tips can you put into place today or tomorrow? Let us know what works by commenting below!


Maria Iams is an executive coach and leadership development expert with Lange International. If you would like to get in touch with Maria she can be reached at

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