Styles and Climate in a Time of Crisis

Leadership styles and organizational climate scores do not appear impacted by the upheaval throughout 2020.

Wildfires. Racial unrest. Financial uncertainty. A global pandemic. If it were a movie script, the executive producers likely would dismiss it as being over the top. 

But, if the film were made, how would the script writers depict the leaders in it? Would the heroes use the same leadership styles in these perilous times? Would their impact on the climate experienced by their direct reports be different?

Of course, we are not living on a movie set. These are tragically real challenges faced by leaders today. In the past, CEOs have made small shifts in their style of leading when faced with a crisis. For example, in the 2008 Great Recession or more recently, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, on average, leaders tended to become more directive, according to Korn Ferry research. They engaged in more close supervision, monitoring their employees’ work progress, and controlling the decision making within the organization. 

The Korn Ferry Institute dug deep into our databases to evaluate whether or not similar trends emerged during the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, we asked: are direct reports rating their managers differently on their leadership styles or the climates they create since the pandemic began?

Unexpectedly, the answer, so far, is, “No.” 

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