Covid-19 Leadership Playbook

Practical and evidence-based guidance for responding to the leadership challenges of Covid-19 and beyond.

There is no right or wrong way to lead in times like this.  It’s unprecedented. There is no manual. We’ve called this a Leadership Playbook because you will need to try things out, some ‘plays’.  These plays need to bring calm and stability and help drive adaptation.

While there is no right or wrong way to lead and no right answers, Catapult can offer you suggestions and guidance to help inform your plays and give you more chance of success.  Our suggestions and guidance are based on:

  • Catapult’s 20 years’ experience working with leaders and organisations including working with public health and sustainability leaders to address complex challenges.
  • Catapult research and report into the leadership lessons from navigating the last recession and implications for 2020 – Mining the Diamonds – Leadership Gems from the Last Recession.
  • Catapult’s understanding of what Kiwis want from leaders (based on quantitative and qualitative research 2017) and the implications for how to lead in a Covid-19 world.

Some Top Leadership Plays

Cool Head, Warm Heart. This is a great overall ethos to bring to your leadership right now. Cool head includes identifying the facts from the noise and confronting the reality of what is happening.  It’s about focusing on things you can control and influence and not being distracted by the things you can’t. Warm heart is about bringing care and compassion to how you engage with people as you respond to the reality of the situation.

Straight Up, Personable, Can Do. Catapult’s research shows that these three attributes are what Kiwis want most from their leaders. People want you to tell things as they are and to be warm, compassionate, empathetic, and available. People expect you to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in to bring calm and stability to the situation.

Involve People. While people will be looking to you to do what you can, you can’t solve these types of challenges by yourself. Actively involve staff in plans for how to navigate Covid-19 and any resulting recession. Let staff be part of the process rather than passengers. In doing so they will have a greater sense of control and ownership. You will get more and better ideas and higher ownership.

Communicate.  Mining the Diamonds research shows people want regular clear and open communications. Even if there is nothing new to tell, tell them that, otherwise they will make stuff up.


Manage Your Leadership Contagion.  Your mood, your leadership way of being, communicates far more powerfully than what you say or do.  Be emotionally regulated and ask yourself, ‘Who do I need to be for people right now?’ In chaotic times, a key role for leaders is to bring calm and stability.  A good starting point for thinking about who you need to be is ‘calm, confident and forward looking’.  That’s a virus people will want to catch!

Use Your Backbone. If your organisation has developed ‘backbone’ elements of purpose, vision, and values, use these to help navigate tough times. They are gold.

Your purpose tells you how you add value to the world, so don’t lose sight of this as you respond to what’s going on.

Your vision tells you what you want to achieve long-term.  What’s happening is very likely going to impact on your ability to achieve your strategic objectives but don’t lose sight of the long game while dealing with the here and now.

Your values are the organisation’s core beliefs about what’s important. Reference your values to inform what you should or should not do. For example, if you have a value of ‘innovation’, use this as a call to get people to think creatively about how to adapt. If you have a value  such as ‘whanaungatanga’  (relationships and connection), use this to help guide how you interact and communicate with staff, customers, and suppliers.

For more insights and leadership plays access

 Mining the Diamonds – Leadership Gems from the Last Recession

Covering Strategic Leadership, Operational Leadership, People Leadership, and Personal Leadership.

Download Mining the Diamonds - Leadership Gems from the Last Recession


Mining the Diamonds – Leadership Gems from the Last Recession

This report includes recommendations with regard to strategic, operational, personal, and people leadership relevant to Covid-19 and recession related leadership.

Resources for Leading in Turbulent Times

We have identified and compiled links to useful articles and resources to help lead yourself and others through turbulent times

Discussion Guide for Virtual Meetings. 

Remote working doesn’t have to mean social isolation. A guide with resources and question prompts to help you run a virtual meeting

Practical Insights for Leading Remote Teams. 

Catapult has been running a remote team successfully for 15 years and we share our experience inside three practical insights.

Leaders Like You. 

Published by Catapult in 2017, Leaders Like You contains research and details about what Kiwis look for in their leaders. Particularly relevant today.

Catapult Support

Catapult Regeneration – Online Programme

Research from Mining the Diamonds – Leadership Gems from the Last Recessions shows many organisations used the recession as an opportunity to review their organisation, and ultimately make it better and stronger. Catapult Regeneration is an online five session programme that provides tools and insights for how to use Covid-19 to regenerate your organisation. Find out more.

Individual Coaching Support.

Work with a coach to develop your own Covid-19 Leadership Playbook or for general coaching support. Frequency and number of sessions will be determined between you and the Catapult coach. During Covid-19, we are providing coaching by telephone or Zoom platforms.

Group Coaching.

Group coaching for leaders wanting to access Catapult coaching and be part of a community of leaders sharing experiences and lessons as they navigate Covid-19.  Groups will be between 5 – 7 with the group composition determined by similarity of role and challenge. During Covid-19, we are providing coaching by telephone or Zoom platforms.

Leadership Team Coaching  

Your Catapult coach will facilitate a process whereby the leadership team will develop an organisational Covid-19 Leadership Playbook specific to your organisation and your situation. Sessions will cover:

– Strategic leadership framework for review and response

– Operational leadership framework for review and response

– People leadership approaches and practices

– Personal leadership practices and resilience

During Covid-19, we are providing coaching by telephone or Zoom platforms.

Please contact us by filling in your details and coaching area of interest by clicking on the ‘Talk to us’ button below.