Covid-19: What makes a good leader during a crisis?

April Sabral

/ Leadership

retail manager standing in a store looking concerned

With the current changes, we are all facing in the retail community one thing is for sure, how people are treated in this moment of crisis will be remembered. COVID19 has had a more profound impact than just a loss in sales, it’s shaping the way we interact, judge, appreciate and treat each other. Leading during COVID19 is a first time for all retail leaders. Refocusing on what is essential versus what is not is the current theme and one of the things I see coming out of this pandemic is the need to identify this in our personal lives and businesses. One thing that is essential is the human connection and valuing each other. Ensuring others feel valued is something that I am incredibly passionate about in my personal life as well as my professional life. This is something I have strived to teach others my entire retail career.

Today I think about the current reality and what is happening, it is more evident now more than ever that valuing others is crucial not just in retail but in our daily lives. If we value others we would head the warnings to stop the spread.


My passion in life has always been to make sure people on my team feel valued. I am not perfect at it but it is something that I take extremely seriously. When I reflect upon where this passion came from it started at an earlier age than my retail career.

I am an identical twin; this is something that as a child made me feel extremely special and grateful. I had a built-in bestie that looked like me, sounded like me, and I never felt alone. We shared everything when we were little, a room, our thoughts, and our parents.

As we started to grow and develop I developed a lisp one that was paralyzing as a teen. My sister did not have the same challenges speaking, and actually, I can’t even remember if she wore braces as I did. Maybe she did? I remember wearing every kind of headgear, and concoction you can imagine. It was embarrassing, and my memories of primary and high school were ones of being teased and passive when it came to speaking up. She on the other hand in my perspective was popular and outgoing. I began to feel undervalued by people but more importantly my sister.

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As I grew and we started to follow our paths this feeling of not being valued continued throughout our entire relationship. For years I have almost felt that my sister does not see my value in her life, and I even asked her this on a trip to the UK about ten years ago. Her answer was If I ever become a mum, I think you could offer me advice. I was shocked and felt that as a leader in business there could be so much more I could provide in life lessons or support. Retail careers are not always seen as an educated valuable career choice.

Thank god for age and wisdom as well as our ability to change our perspective.

During meditation, I realized that this feeling that was created at a young age has fueled me to ensure that others feel valued no matter what their contribution is.

You see I realized that without holding this emotion of not feeling valued I might not have understood this to the depth that I do. And because I know the feeling first hand, I make it a mission as much as possible to create an environment where people are valued, and that they value others, and recognize the importance of this.

In business this is crucial, the more an employee feels valued, listened to and encouraged the better results the company will deliver. People build businesses; people manage people, and every intricate part of a team that produces is based on a team of people that execute the companies objectives with passion. Without people and more importantly, people that feel valued there would be no business. You can not open the doors of a retail store without a team of people. You can not provide fantastic service from a team of people that do not value their customers.

COVID-19: What makes a good leader during a crisis?

It doesn’t cost us anything other than more effort, awareness and putting others first when it counts.

To value others, it’s quite simple; Follow these simple guidelines. In times of crisis, this is even more important, you may have to figure out how you make this work if your team is remote but there are many ways do to that. We use Zoom and facetime.

  • Be compassionate, listen and learn.
  • Ask questions and lots of them.
  • Make it about them not you.
  • Encourage others to share ideas no matter how small they are; you never know what might be the next million-dollar idea or the idea that saves money time and effort.
  • Take time for team members that may not directly report into you, but rather facilitate open conversation cross-functionally. This builds culture. Even though most offices are open plan these days, there is a severe amount of silos. When teams are at home it can be amplified.
  • Show that you care about your people, don’t take them for granted. Especially in situations like Covid19 Pandemic.
  • It’s not always about a raise or a games room at work. More than that it’s about how each team member interacts with a purpose to help everyone on the team feel valued every day.
  • Build culture first, then strategy second.
  • Recognize people’s talents more often than not. How, can you help them stay engaged and productive during this uncertain time?
  • Be present and take the time to connect with others in a more meaningful way. Social distancing is having an impact on all of us.

So the lesson learned is that sometimes in life we are given or treated a certain way, however, what you learn from it and choose to do with those emotions will define you not the experience itself.

Today I am genuinely grateful for that feeling of being undervalued as it served me and my purpose throughout my retail career and will continue. Without this lesson early on I may not have had an awareness of this and how important it is. I am grateful for my sister and now do not need her to make me feel valued as this lesson itself is one of the most significant gifts she could have given me!

Today more than ever we need to value each other, and those of us that work in retail because for a long time it has been a very undervalued career choice for many at the frontline level. Today those workers are considered part of our essential services. Without them, we could not go grab food when we need it or other necessities. So smile and say thank you when you are grabbing your milk, bread and appreciate them.

Whatever you are feeling during this pandemic, learn, reflect and take stock. This is a time for us to reset and value our lives and those of others.

Covid-19: What makes a good leader during a crisis? building resilience. We just added a lesson to our course “How to build resilience, called leading in rapid change” Lots of leaders are having to make first time decisions and fast. This is not easy.

Thanks for reading!


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