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Advice for Leaders from Dan Pontefract, CEO Pontefract Group

Once a month we’ll ask Dan a question via our readers and share his expert advice with you. Have a question for Dan? Send an email to with your question! 

Q: What advice do you have for business and community leaders facing the challenge of leading teams in times of economic uncertainty and uncharted territory like we’re seeing with the current pandemic?

A: This may sound crass but the pandemic is going to illuminate the true colours of leaders. It is a generation defining moment, one many leaders are ill-equipped to handle. Why? Their leadership style previously centered on power and hierarchy. What we need more than ever is its opposite. Leaders need to not only help “flatten the curve,” they have to flatten the team and rid themselves of the trappings that power purports to serve.

First, leaders must demonstrate empathy. No one has been through a pandemic before. No one has experienced the uncertainty that organizations are going through. Leaders must empathize with team members—emotionally, cognitively and sympathetically—as it is the team that will be looking to them to appreciate their personal situation. Empathy is the opposite of power.

Second, leaders must trust and continuously engage their team. This is not a time to be barking orders or screaming from the hilltops. As remote work becomes the norm, leaders have to trust that team members want to be productive and move forward on their objectives. Trust them to do what’s right in the best interest of the organization. Equally important, a leader must continuously engage with each individual far more frequently to understand how things are going, what ideas they may have, and how the leader can provide assistance. The more frequent and informal the check-ins, the more that sort of trust begins to develop.

I often say that in every shadow lurks an opportunity to shine the light. The pandemic is casting one nail-biting and ominous shadow, but so too in that shadow lies the greatest opportunity of all time. It’s time for leaders to shine a glowing, vivacious and helpful light on the people they lead.

– Dan

NOTE TO READERS: Dan recently released a free Remote Leadership Toolkit jam-packed with helpful advice. You can access the link on SIPP’s COVID-19 Resource page in the Surviving Remote Work section.

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