COVID-19: Effective leadership is crucial, but how well are leaders coping?

Coaching to build resilience

During this time of great change and uncertainty the need for effective leadership is clear – but how well are leaders coping?

The short answer is not that well. This is according to a study by Dr Terblanch, Senior Lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, which looks at the underlying truth of leadership in a time of crisis.

Based on interviews with executive coaches across South Africa, the UK, USA and Australia, many leaders are struggling with their identity. In some instances, leaders are being asked to act in ways that go against their value systems, while on a more pragmatic level, they are struggling with the physical change in their work environment.

Dr Terblanch explains that some leaders are more task-focused, reliant on physical interactions with their teams or identify strongly with their corner office, but now they are at home and sharing in domestic and schooling duties. “No more jetting off; it’s about acknowledging what is in and out of your control and trying to weather the storm together,” he says.

The study found that resilience is the strongest factor determining whether leaders would succeed or not; observing that resilient leaders are able to see the bigger picture, look beyond the doom and gloom and seek opportunities.

Jo Thomson, Executive Coach and Senior Consultant at Free To Grow, describes how coaching can help leaders build this much-needed resilience to effectively lead the new ways of working:

While leaders may face similar challenges and changes, their responses, and therefore their coping requirements, are very different. Because coaching is tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual, it enables them to work through issues they are personally struggling with to find their own solutions,” says Jo. 

Able to reach anyone, anywhere and at any time, coaching also gives leaders the opportunity to:

  • Talk openly and soundboard ideas with someone they trust
  • Be constructively challenged to come up with sustainable solutions
  • Set clear leadership objectives and be held accountable


The value of having a coach is that they guide leaders to not only think and plan but also to make sense of what is happening on multiple levels.

“Coaching has always been a powerful space to reflect – guided by a professional who uses theories and frameworks from psychology and adult learning – to sift through information, offer different perspectives and challenge assumptions,” says Dr Terblanch. “By assisting leaders to be self-aware, coaching can help to identify stressors and shape responses and leadership styles. Only once a situation is properly understood can effective plans be made.”

Our team of highly-qualified and experienced Coaches are offering individual coaching sessions to support leaders with any need that may arise during this time.

Click here to read more on our Coaches and their areas of specialty…

Free To Grow team of Coaches

Contact your Free To Grow Consultant or Kim van Schoor on 021 852 4445, 084 442 5619 or to explore our Covid-19 We Care We Can Solutions can complement what you are doing to support your leaders.