Leading in the crisis

Short info



Project partners

  • Darmstadt Business School (h_da)
  • Gesellschaft für Organisation (gfo)

Contact persons


Crisis management in companies is one of the most important areas of corporate management – often neglected in good times, in bad times it is crucial for the future of the employees and managers concerned and sometimes even for the existence of the company. Therefore, it is of high entrepreneurial and economic, but also social and human importance to identify critical success factors and to develop or further develop recommendations for action for crisis management in companies. The Corona crisis offers a great opportunity for new insights.

“Soft aspects” such as leadership, communication and culture are important success factors in corporate crisis management. Compared to “hard” operational restructuring measures, however, they have received far too little attention so far in the context of crisis management, which is why they are the subject of this research project.

In crises, many people have fears and worries about the future. At the same time, it is necessary in all sectors and areas for people to think positively, actively shape change and take responsibility. Taking responsibility means, in particular, maintaining an attitude of wanting to bring about as much positive and as little suffering as possible for others with one’s own actions. Because of their great influence on many people, company leaders have a special responsibility and role model function, which is why this research project focuses in particular on the inner attitudes, attitudes and leadership behaviour of top managers.

Communication is crucial when leading people – and especially when leading through crises. In times of crisis, company leaders are more dependent than ever on their employees: They need to believe, trust and follow them. They need to know how the company is doing and what ways have been found to improve the situation – or to continue to find ways. Honesty and closeness are important. But so are commitment and strength in implementing the communicated measures. Especially in crises, people need to be addressed personally and want to understand the motives and goals of actions. Even if no solution to a problematic situation can be presented, it should be said how one is working to develop a solution. It is therefore particularly important for business leaders to develop a feeling for people and their fears, worries and concerns, but also for what drives, motivates and inspires them.

Ultimately, it is also about reaching people emotionally. Particularly when employees have to be dismissed, it is important to implement factually necessary measures while dealing with each other in a humanly responsible manner. For this to succeed, a corporate culture that is suitable for a crisis is necessary. However, since culture is something that is shaped over years or decades by the members of a system, i.e. in companies by managers, employees and other stakeholders, and in turn shapes them mutually, resounding successes at the cultural level cannot be expected only through the measures implemented during an acute crisis.

After the crisis is before the crisis – in this respect it is of great importance to systematically evaluate findings from a crisis that has been overcome and to make them useful for future crises.


The aim of the research project is to identify success factors for “leading in a crisis” and to derive recommendations for action.


The project is divided into the following work packages

  1. Basic research and analysis of case studies
  2. Derivation of success factors and hypothesis generation
  3. Semi-structured interviews with selected top managers
  4. Derivation of recommendations for action