Opportunities in Times of Crisis

The Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of two different words: “danger” and “opportunity”. Inside every crisis is danger but also an opportunity for creativity, resilience, and connections. In the face of crisis, everyone gets scared. The best leaders are those who are transparent and let others know that everything will be okay. Can the leader say, “I don’t know, but we will figure it out”? It is reassuring for employees to hear that the leaders may not know the answer and are willing to work together to develop and strategy. President John F. Kennedy suggested in a speech he gave in 1959 that out of crisis there can emerge new and incredible opportunities.

When we are faced with a challenge or crisis, do we see the opportunities? Some opportunities include: giving back to the community, ways to differentiate the company from the competitors, and to strengthen relationships. During this pandemic, we have seen companies step up and give back to their local communities. We have seen companies reinvent themselves and their processes. We have new businesses open during this time. Collaborating with competitors and vendors has helped to strengthen relationships.  As individuals, businesses, and a community we can emerge stronger, more creative, and have more loyal and engaged customers.

There are three types of leaders emerging during the current economic crisis. The beauty of this is that everyone gets to choose how you respond to a crisis.

The Fear-Based Leader

Are you the type of person that is ruled by emotion and becomes overwhelmed focusing on casting blame externally?  Do you react to fear and don’t seek solutions?

The Sideline Leader

Are you the type of person who is neutral and will wait to see what happens? You don’t have a plan and just wait for the crisis to pass?

The Opportunity Leader

These are the people who react seeking the positive in bad situations.  They are proactive with an optimistic mindset. Hoping things will get better is not a plan. As a leader, you need to focus on what you can do. Sometimes the answer is obvious and other times you have to think outside of the box and be creative.

I have seen some people react in fear, and others sit on the sidelines. We tend to gravitate to those who have success stories and admire people that show resilience and strong leadership.

John Maxwell said: “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change and the Leader adjusts the sails.”

Opportunity Leaders focus on:

  • Ensure employees feel safe, secure, and heard.

One of the things that makes Southwest Airlines so successful is that the company truly believes and values its employees. Above all else, the employee comes before the customer. Southwest knows that if they have happy employees that they will have happy customers.

  • Listen to the needs of customers right now.

Empathy. We all need empathy, employees, and customers.  Listen to their needs, find ways to shift products and services to meet the current needs.

  • Be Flexible and change your strategy.

Agility and resilience are crucial traits. Nothing stays stagnate and you need to evolve and change course.  There will be many trials and errors. Permit yourself to fail as you work towards the creative solution.

  • The Emergence of Talent.

During a crisis, those with the right skill sets and talent rise to the top. They have a way of rising to meet the challenge and seek solutions that enable the entire team to grow closer together and work better.

  • Study and analyze the previous crisis.

As Sir Winston Church said: Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” As an individual, and organization identify what failed and what worked well and learn for the future.

Leaders are essential to take different and often unpopular measures before and during a crisis. These leaders need humility and take the risk of exploring new, unconventional solutions to make things happen. Seek the opportunities, during times of crisis, you grow as an individual and an organization that will set you apart from the others.

By Cheryl Viola, MBA, Executive Director


How crisis can create opportunity – SUCCESS. (2017, October 2). Retrieved from https://www.success.com/how-crisis-can-create-opportunity/

How to be an opportunity leader in times of crisis — Bloom leadership. (2020, April 12). Retrieved from https://www.bloomleaders.com/blog/2020/4/12/how-to-be-an-opportunity-leader-in-times-of-crisis

Hu-Chan, M. (2020, April 21). How to find opportunity within a crisis. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/maya-hu-chan/how-to-find-opportunity-within-a-crisis.html

Langan-Riekhof, M., Avanni, A. B., & Janetti, A. (2017, April 11). Sometimes the world needs a crisis: Turning challenges into opportunities. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/sometimes-the-world-needs-a-crisis-turning-challenges-into-opportunities/