Look for the Helpers: Humble Leadership in Times of Crisis


Many people are involved in a basketball game: A coach provides strategy, a shooting guard is agile, and a point guard assists in providing direction. In the heat of the game, the coach knows when to put in strong players, when to bench someone, and when to encourage every player to step up and give 110%. But winning does not depend on just the coach. Winning depends on each player contributing, whether by hustling down the court, putting up a three-pointer, or being in the best possible position when the game is on the line.

The same applies to business. Every person’s role in a company matters, and every person contributes to the company’s success. While responsibilities and titles vary, we all serve customers, drive revenue, and strategize for the future. A good leader encourages team members to develop their individual strengths so the team will perform better.

But what about during a crisis? Today we all find ourselves in uncharted territory, and many businesses are being forced to adapt. Some are changing their business model, some are reinventing their business purpose, and others are collaborating across industries. The most successful companies will be those whose leaders practice humility, admit mistakes, listen to new and innovative ideas, and create space and opportunities for employees to help. People who are truly “helpers” can help their companies succeed.

Battling the business impact of a crisis requires a team of helpers. Leaders should provide vision, be open and honest, make critical decisions with care and efficiency, and create a platform for cooperation and team effort. Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson recently took these actions, reassuring employees in a companywide address that “we can — and we will — overcome this, and we’ll thrive once again.”

Thriving again is what we all want, and each person will play a different role in helping to make that happen. Our research has shown that certain team member characteristics lead to team success in the long run. These include being results oriented, relationship focused, process oriented, innovative, and pragmatic. Acknowledging these strengths in a team and knowing when to tap into them is crucial.

But what if a leader is unsure of a teams’ strengths or how to encourage an individual to better develop his or her strengths? Hogan can help. We understand the science of personality and have created many assessments that will help you understand the strengths of your team.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that every role in a company matters, and every person contributes. Think of this current moment like the heat of the game — when leaders look to their helpers, they know who is dependable and agile and that, in order to thrive again, we have to rely on each other.