Tough times reveal true leaders. Never has that been clearer than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Customers are staying home. Businesses across America are shutting their doors. Layoffs are creating stress at work and at home. In the first two months of the crisis, economic costs are expected to top $2 trillion.

Leaders don’t paper over the pain caused by a crisis; they work through it. In times of uncertainty, they help teams move forward together.

Tougher Together

The last time companies faced a similar challenge was the 1918 flu pandemic. To understand how today’s leaders are navigating tough times, we reached out. Here’s what they told us:

1. Be there, both personally and professionally.

“We are all here for each other, personally and professionally. Our team has the uncanny and admirable ability to never be rattled and to always maintain the highest standards. We are extraordinarily lucky.”

Daniel Ghazi, founder of DAG Tech

2. Focus on the vision, not the failure.

“The key to successful leadership while facing obstacles is perseverance. Leaders who are perseverant refuse to give up. They focus on the vision, not the failure. These individuals know that the greatest lessons are learned in the peaks, not the valleys. They look at failure as an opportunity to learn by constructing a gateway to future success.”

Kami Zargari, broker at Triumph Property Management

3. Face the brutal facts.

“Leadership is confronting reality and facing the brutal facts. It is taking tough decisions and delivering the news yourself. It is trusting your team and helping them grow. It is painting a vision and showing the path to get there. It is fighting with all your heart and still enjoying life.”

Eric Rozenberg, hospitality and tech entrepreneur

4. Unite and collaborate.

“What is needed right now when it comes to leadership is a calm, centered, objective approach to long-term goals. We must be driven by collaboration and unification — not isolation and independence.

We need to work together as teams like never before. There has never been a more important time in the history of our civilization to stand together as a common people. United we stand, divided we fall.”

Kerwin Rae, business strategist and entrepreneurship expert

5. Lead by building leaders.

“Tough times are inevitable. How you react, change, and refine is what’s important. Teaching your leaders to build leaders will be a key factor to your success.

At Proozy, our focus is on continuous growth and innovation. We encourage our team to think outside the box to develop creative solutions and to not shy away from taking big risks.”

— Jeremy Segal, founder and CEO of Proozy

6. Focus on the people who depend on you.

“Regardless of what’s happening in the outside world, I lead our team to always focus on our clients because, in the end, they depend on us. They trust us to be there for them.

As a leader, it’s my job to make sure we work harder than ever to give Round’s clients access to opportunities that most people don’t have. Leadership and cohesion are essential to persevering and properly executing business operations.”

— Saul Cohen, founder and CEO of Round

7. Slow down and smell the numbers.

“Take a break. Don’t overreact to anything you hear. If you look back on bad situations, you’ll notice most of them began with a lot of bad information.

Pay attention to what’s conjecture and what are true facts. Ask yourself whether something is truth, opinion, or rhetoric. Go with the numbers because early reports are almost never right.”

— Todd Ehrlich, founder and CEO of FactorCloud

8. Determine, decide, and do.

“In uncertain times, leaders need to remember the three Ds: determine, decide, and do. Many people are stuck in the ‘determine’ phase right now, checking the news every few minutes to try to determine what’s going on in the world. This is a distraction.

Instead, it’s important to carve out a limited amount of time to determine what’s changed and then move on to the next step. Don’t ruminate on what’s already happened. Figure out if another course of action is needed. If you need to change, then you must determine what you will do differently.”

— Nir Eyal, author of Hooked and Indistractable

9. Think and act quickly.

“A lot of our clients are sports equipment manufacturers, so having all of the key industry events canceled is forcing us to think and act quickly. The fans, audiences, and sports fanatics haven’t gone anywhere. In fact, they are more ‘tuned in’ than ever because they are stuck at home.”

— Rebecca Rosoff, co-founder and CEO of The KIMBA Group

10. Get comfortable with discomfort.

“Good leadership in tough times requires you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you’ve been practicing moving out of your comfort zone for years, you should be in familiar territory. If not, the time to start practicing is now. When you witness yourself moving uncomfortably into the great unknown, a whole world of creative choice and possibility opens up.”

Gia Storms, career transition coach and communications executive

There’s no roadmap to leading your company through this crisis. But if you look around, you’ll see a lot of leaders charting a path through it. Settle on one that makes sense for your team, and stick to it.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.