27. Apr 2021

It’s all about leadership

5 tips for modern leadership during and after the crisis

We live in a VUCA or BANI (brittle, anxious, non-linear and incomprehensible) world. Today, companies and especially their leaders are facing framework conditions, which are extremely volatile, uncertain, complex and ambivalent.

On the one hand, there are ever-changing requirements in terms of Home Office or remote work, and, on the other hand, employees might find themselves in a field of personal tension due to increasing uncertainty. Managers at different levels are expected to react to these new, normal challenges in agile ways; at the same time, they should be “driving by sight” and also be able to keep hold of the big picture, i. e. the purpose  of a company.

In the following, we have summarized some tips for successful leadership of employees through times of crisis, and for ensuring compliance with the principles of “New Leadership”.

1. New generation, new needs

Generation Y (Millennials = all people born between 1980 and 1999) and Generation Z (born after the year 2000) know exactly what they want: they are striving for an active role in the company, work in a self-determined manner, and want to experience the purpose of their actions, as well as the “pleasure of working”. They are also expecting a trust-based corporate culture, flat hierarchies and plenty of freedom in terms of a better “work-life balance”.

For managers, this means dealing with employees of all age groups, creating promising perspectives for the future, sharing visions with each other and being a „coach“ rather than „manager“. As a manager, invest in the further development of your employees and allow them to continue their education through training! Last but not least, speak words of appreciation and get rid of the idea that „respect must be earned”.

2. Be there without physical presence

Particularly in such difficult times when employees have to work from home, leaders need to be there – in the form of social and emotional presence. Employees must not feel left alone with their questions or concerns, because this inevitably would lead to insecurity, and in the end, result in performance loss.

Appreciation in communication is – often unintentionally – neglected, but in times of crisis, it is all the more important: As a manager, you should focus on success, express enthusiasm, and show optimism and confidence! A study carried out by „Great Place to Work” in January 2021 has shown that physical proximity is not necessarily required for employees to „feel understood”.

3. Trust and credibility are the basis

Control is a good thing, but trust is a better one: However, for remote leadership to be successful, trust is now more important than ever. There are always two sides: the trust in employees and the trust of employees in the actions “from above“. A transparent and comprehensible communication, honest optimism and fair involvement of all employees, as well as communication of orientation and confidence will help to strengthen a culture based on trust.

4. Agile leadership

These times of crisis are demanding: Flexibility, speed and courage are necessary to run a business. At the same time, agile managers have to take on a coaching function: this implies coaching on an equal footing, giving clear messages and being willing to listen to employees. It is challenging to find the right pace for the steps to be taken, and to always convey the sense, i.e. the „how” and “why” in parallel.

5. With structure and system through the crisis and beyond

If a „worst-case scenario” occurs, Business Continuity Management (BCM) can provide managers and the teams behind them with a decisive head start, and help to prevent business interruptions as far as possible. The defined crisis plan shall be communicated to the employees in a rapid and transparent manner, as employees who know what to do in the event of crisis will be able to react, and thus achieve the intended output more quickly.

Commitment as a top-down requirement

The topic of Leadership also plays a decisive role in standards such as ISO 9001 (quality management)ISO 14001 (environmental management) and ISO 45001 (occupational health and safety). It reveals that top management nowadays is more strongly required to demonstrate leadership and to include the respective quality, environment or safety aspects in its strategic planning and decision-making; it has to take an active management position. Only if top management sets a good example, promotes continual improvement in the company and puts the quality policy objectives into practice, can quality be implemented and lived effectively and sustainably in the company.

Nevertheless, leadership requirements are constantly changing in order to remain as effective as possible in dynamic times – so another revision of ISO 9001 could be initiated in 2021.

Ms. Dr. Anni Koubek, Executive Vice President Innovation, Business Development Certification Quality talks about the possibly upcoming revision:

„There is no great demand on the market for a major revision of ISO 9001. However, surveys are currently still being evaluated to see where, if at all, the standard should be further developed. There will be a decision by fall 2021. Work is already done in possible areas of action as part of the „Future Concepts”. Ethics, integrity and corporate culture are areas that are shaped by leadership. Whether these topics will be included in a possible revision of ISO 9001 or will first be developed in the form of guidelines is currently unclear.“

Contact persons


Mr. Friedrich Khuen-Belasi, MSc

Executive Vice President Partner Management & Human Resources


Ms. Dr. Anni Koubek

Executive Vice President Innovation, Business Development Certification Quality


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