4 Essential Leadership Traits for Post COVID-19 Seasons

Written by Horng Yuan | Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.

As mentioned in our previous post, the pandemic will continue to unfold. It is expected to see increase in the numbers of infection and death tolls, economic and business disruptions, rise in joblessness and poverty, and negative emotional and mental impacts on individuals. As to navigate the pandemic, we need to continue to prepare for uncertainty and instability, seek for opportunity to create and innovate, and practise self care. We can still thrive and not just survive during this pandemic.

The Importance of Good Leadership

Good leadership is especially needed in this time to lead individuals, organisations, and nations through the pandemic. COVID-19 has changed our ways of living, working, doing business, and running organisations. Leaders need to continue to adapt quickly to the new normal, stay positive, and lead appropriately in response to the changes introduced by the pandemic. The people we lead are looking to us for direction and hope; they want us to lead them through the crisis. Therefore, it is a must for leaders to inject fresh visions, improvise missions and actions, and inspire others to see new possibilities. In cases where there are failings in organisations and businesses, leaders need to initiate restoration and rejuvenation, and implement them urgently.

This is the time for us to really live out our calling as leaders. We need to choose and decide to lead. Echoing Stephen Covey, leaders are neither born nor made; leaders choose to be leaders. Hence, our decisions matter. Many have chosen to lead during this pandemic, and they have done well and risen to the top. Indeed, COVID-19 has shown that leaders can be forged in testing times.

What are Good Leadership Traits?

There are articles on how to lead well in this crisis and beyond, see for examples Forbes.com, Michigan Medicine, and Center for Creative Leadership; numerous characteristics and traits for good leadership have been presented. In this post, we highlight four of them, which are seen to have long-lasting positive impacts and that will position you for better leadership.

1. Be Empathetic

Daniel Goleman notes that empathy is a component of emotional intelligence. Empathy is about being compassionate and understanding, serving, and developing others; it involves the ability to read and respond to others’ feelings and leveraging diversity. There are fellow workers and people you lead at all levels who are mentally and emotionally exhausted; their psyche is fragile and morale is low. As a leader, a chief role you should be playing now is counseling, and you also need to listen well. You need to be sensitive and know when to encourage with heartfelt words, when to give them a break, and when to refer them to professional help. You may also need to consider amending policies and processes to better fit your organisation to the new normal. Avoid turning a deaf ear and delay responding to the needs of your people because this can lead to tragic consequences.

2. Be Honest

You need to be honest without being ambiguous. As Benjamin Franklin has noted, “Honesty is the best policy.” Being honest builds trust; your people will continue to submit to and follow your leadership when you are trustworthy. A trustworthy leader shares reliable information and facts without exaggeration and embellishment. Remember this, people respond better to the known rather than the unknown. That said, you also need to be transparent, consistent, clear, and frequent with your information and communication. This will enable you to silent any incorrect assumptions and rumours. In addition, be willing to seek and listen to feedback, and provide honest answers to any queries presented to you. Your honesty will minimise anxiety and cynicism.

3. Be Authentic

It is about staying true to who you really are, your vision, mission, and values. Authentic leaders are self-aware and they know their personalities, strengths, limitations, and emotions. They show their real selves in private and public; they present themselves consistently in interactions, meetings, and different medium of communication. They know that acting is detrimental to their leadership. To be authentic, do not be afraid to acknowledge your weaknesses or admit your mistakes for fear of looking weak or losing influence. Instead, be accountable to your people, be humble, and ask for help when you need to because none of us knows it all and can do it all. In times of crisis, you do need assistance and wise counsel from your mentor, coach, counsellor, or fellow peers. Their input will make a huge difference in your life and leadership.

4. Be Present

As a leader, you cannot go missing in times of crisis. Your people need you to be with them; your presence matters. Your absenteeism will project you as being irresponsible, lack of accountability, and unable to handle the effects of the pandemic. All these will give you a bad impression as a leader. In fact, the dire need is that you step up even more and lead your people and organisation from the front line. Being present also means you focus on the present and live in the moment. So, avoid dwelling in the past and overthinking or over-analysing the present or the future. Moreover, as you embrace new things and implement new policies and processes, always be the first to practise them and live them out. This is the time to demonstrate leadership by example. Be the role model.


The four leadership traits here are not exhaustive and they are not the only traits that matter for post COVID-19 seasons. Nevertheless, they are important for leaders to lead through this unprecedented time of uncertainty, instability, and inconvenience; they should not be neglected. Let's embrace them and inspire them at every level of human interaction.