How to Be an Effective Leader During the Pandemic: Interviews with the CEOs of International Corporations

Would you like to talk to the leaders of global corporations? And ask them about the major challenges they’re facing during these hard times? Or the ways on how to remain an effective leader during the pandemic? If so, stay tuned because we’ve already done this for you!

The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed the working world, bringing up unexpected challenges for businesses and leaders. Moreover, some organisations are turning to new delivery channels, products, methods without thoroughly analyzing the impact of such changes. As a result, they end up taking blind shots and being left of usual channels to engage with their stakeholders.

Understandably, the fast shift towards remote work has brought even more challenges for organizations. Indeed, in a world where it’s become even easier for employees to be invisible, it’s difficult to recognize and praise outstanding performance and notice some performance challenges.

Consequently, more than ever leaders should give their undivided attention to the needs of their businesses and employees. However, their own lives may have become much more stressful during the pandemic. Additionally, the biggest issue is how leaders can engage virtually in making serious decisions with their internal teams and stakeholders in ways that increase trust, transparency, and teamwork.


We’ve interviewed more than dozens of CEOs, CTOs, founders and co-founders of leading European and US companies. And now we’re ready to share with you the major challenges they’re facing during these hard times and their pieces of advice on how to remain an effective leader during the pandemic. Let’s roll!

David, Co-founder

How to remain an effective leader during the pandemic.

Anand, Entrepreneur

Part of being an effective leader is knowing what drives your people. Most times you have to take off your title and put yourself in their position.

Christophe, Manager

The main challenges on the way to being an effective leader during the pandemic

James, CTO:

In fact, the main problem for me was simply connecting effectively with people.

As a leader, it’s very hard to make the right choices and the most effective decisions if you can’t properly appreciate how your people and your teams are feeling and what they’re needing to be most productive.

Mike, Founder and CEO

An effective leader during Covid

Asankha, Founder and CEO:

For me, the difference is similar to speaking with someone in person vs over the phone. When you speak over the phone, you lose sight of body language and might interpret certain things wrong. Similarly, when a team works only remotely with teleconferencing, we lose the personal connection. Are they feeling okay with the work, any issues they have in the family, is there any risk of losing them.. basically what else is going on with them that we do not discuss over a web call.

Michael, Founder, Director, CTO:

Covid and leadership

Jamie, Founder

The main problem has been around communication. We have tools such as Slack, Zoom, FaceTime etc but to meet face to face is way more productive, especially when dealing with clients. Due to travel restrictions, I have been limited to doing all communication digitally.

Alex, Quantitative Analyst / Data Scientist, Head of the Department

An effective leader during Covid times

Tips & Tricks

As you can see, leaders all over the world face typical problems and struggle with similar challenges. Having a look at the major issues leaders face these days and the ways they overcome them, we’ve emphasized the major concerns and offered ways to deal with them. Click on the picture below.

Don’t get distracted by the tasks that don’t bring the best results, like spending excessive time on analyzing metrics and micromanaging;

Devote your time to something that is really important – your team and customers;

Track your time to help you understand how long different tasks take. It can also highlight various inefficiencies and distractions, so you can improve your processes;

Block all the distractions and notifications when you need to focus on the task;

Plan your breaks and don’t feel guilty taking them. Studies show that remote workers take fewer breaks and sick days – a powerful cocktail for employee burnout. Click on the picture below.

Increase the flow of communication with your team – the faster you hear their information and they hear your directives – the better organization will be, and you’ll be able to avoid any kind of uncertainty;

Do fewer meetings but make them more powerful. We think that if we don’t commute, we spend less effort and meetings are easier to organize. This increases the number of meetings and worsens their quality; 

Organize meetings in small groups – the smaller the group – the easier it is for everyone to be heard and for decisions to be made;

Have check-in conversations up to 10-15 minutes on a regular basis with team members. This can help recreate organic moments that happen in person. Quick messages can also be used for check-ins as a supplement to audio and video calls;

Practise empathy. More and more companies practise empathy towards their employees and are being lenient towards their coming late to meetings or having to leave early due to home obligations;

It’s important to have more than one communication channel. Different people respond differently to various communication channels, for example, an email followed by a video call;

Establish human connections before and after the meeting. Ask your employees how they are feeling and what can be done to increase engagement, creativity, and enthusiasm in the team;

Stick to video calls as they are the most effective way to improve communication and increase performance during the pandemic.

There are 3 types of distances in remote work: physical (physical and time distance between employees), operational (differences in skill level, etc.), and affinity (issues that prevent your team from building long-lasting relationships based on shared value, trust, and interdependency).

Affinity plays the most important role in the long-term performance of the team. This is where video conferencing helps as it forms strong bonds with each other;

Switch from short emails to more detailed ones. Short emails are great for quick notes but not for explaining some important issues. Coach your team to write long, detailed messages with as much information as possible. This will help avoid misunderstanding, confusion and save time;

Do not micromanage your team. Your employees are responsible adults, and if it’s ok to check some urgent tasks and ask for feedback, try to resist the temptation to bombard your employees with hundreds of calls and emails.

Make them feel trusted and wanted. At the end of the day, they’ll remember only how you made them feel, not what you said or did. Click on the picture below.

Try team-building activities. It can be helpful to carry out team meetings once a week to praise your colleagues for hard work, to speak about company news and share birthdays and anniversaries;

Update colleagues on all the news in the company. For example, we in Expert Soft have started a wonderful tradition, to send each employee a booklet with the most significant news that happened to the company over the past month. This way we keep everyone informed and give them a feeling of involvement;

Carry out different surveys to gain more insight from your team. If you find that people are missing deadlines, maybe it’s time to think about the tools that can help with organization and management;

Incorporate light-hearted moments. With so many negative moments we see in the media right now, it can give us so many advantages to appreciate some light-hearted moments and find things we can laugh at. Humor unites us all!

Encourage social connections. The meaningful part of connections at work comes from not work-related stuff (hobbies, passions, interests, pets, sports, etc.). So, encourage your employees to ask for and share their interests with others;

Engage your employees in decision-making. Make your team understand that their opinions and thoughts are important for you. Be open about your goals and incentives, and ask their opinion of what they think works the best;

Get together in person at least once. Organize an event where employees can get to know each other on a personal level. It can be a sports event, kayaking, quizzes, or a charity event. The next virtual chat can be more engaging because your employees will already have an experience of talking face to face. Click on the picture below.

Give your team autonomy. With employees being out of sight you may want to constantly receive updates from them and write them hundreds of messages daily to check how the project is going. But this is simply not working. You are only taking their time and switching their focus.

Employees that are given more freedom to complete the work experience greater job satisfaction. Instead of constant check-ins, set clear deadlines and transparent goals;

Equip your employees. Make sure your team has all the necessary tools and knows how to use them;

Focus on the outcome, not on the process. Give your employees flexibility. In a remote atmosphere, people are juggling work and family duties, and sometimes they can face unexpected events. Give them more flexibility and focus not on when the work is being done, but on its final result;

Encourage innovation. During these difficult times, innovation and risk-taking are becoming even more important for employee engagement and company success. Make your team believe that they can be a part of something really big and amazing, encourage them to come up with new ideas and be creative. Click on the picture below.

Give yourself a moment to step back. It’s essential to take a moment to pause and take a breath to anticipate and prioritize. You can tell your team that you need a moment to think and gain a broader perspective (a study shows that even if you pause for some 50-100 milliseconds, this will allow your brain to focus on the most relevant information);

Involve more people when making a decision. When making a decision, surround yourself with a wide range of stakeholders, frontline employees (who usually have smart ideas about what employees to deploy for each shift and what steps to take);

Focus on critical small choices. Some small choices can make a great difference! Anticipate a couple of different future scenarios for how things might evolve over time. Make a list of 10 choices that can make a difference in the future and talk to employees, stakeholders, experts;

Create a group of people responsible for decision-making. If a leader is too distracted, he is more likely to make some serious mistakes while making a decision. That’s why it’s smart to create a nerve center consisting of people who are ready to make fast and accurate decisions;

Choose leaders carefully. Empower those people who have lived through crises and showed their temperament and resilience.

Bottom Line

To wrap it all up, we’re facing really difficult times right now. And they’re even more difficult for leaders because, despite their own stresses and hardships they face during the pandemic, they should devote their full attention to the needs, trials and tribulations of the employees. 

It’s difficult to maintain successful communication, increase performance, avoid burnout and continue being an effective leader during the pandemic. And it’s absolutely ok to make mistakes and feel a little lost because no one has prepared us for these times and for effective leadership during and after Covid. 

At least now you know you are not alone and there are so many leaders around the globe that are facing the exact same problems and trying hard to find an outcome. We hope this article has been useful for you and given you some food for thought and valuable insight that you can successfully use now in your own company.


Pavel, CEO at Expert Soft

One of the major challenges for me is that the team is divided due to WFH. It can be tough to unite and motivate the employees, as well as control the mood of the people.

In the office, you could notice any tension in time. Now I can feel a slightly depressed overall mood in the team, as people don’t spend time together, they can’t discuss something not work-related over a cup of coffee. The only solution I see is to devote more time and effort to support them.

What is more, it’s become more difficult to delegate the tasks. In the office, you could control how the task was being solved. Now you should spend more time asking for feedback and waiting for it.