Leadership in Political Crisis

07.06.2024 6 Min Read
Tinatin Rukhadze

Managing Partner

Leadership in Political Crisis

For almost two months, our country has faced a serious political crisis. By initiating the so-called "Russian law," the government has openly opposed the Georgian people's desire to join the European family and democratic world. This decision was finalized on May 27. Growing up in the Soviet Union, I understand the realities of authoritarianism, restricted freedom, and inequality. Having witnessed and participated in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the building of a free Georgia, I deeply grasp the significance of democracy and European values. Based on experience, I can assess our country's risks and opportunities if the people's will does not prevail in this struggle. This is why all my thoughts and emotions now revolve around our country's fate and this political crisis.

The article addresses the challenges faced by organizational leaders during political crises. In light of current events, I aim to explore and answer several critical questions: What implications does a political crisis hold for leaders of private organizations? How can leaders manage stress effectively? How can they maintain or restore their leadership strength when they themselves are facing difficulties? And, how can they guide their team and organization through such turbulent times?

Challenges of Domestic Political Crisis

 First, we must agree that a political crisis within a country is significantly different from other types of crises, such as an economic crisis or a war with an external enemy.

During an economic crisis, the rules of the business game change, market conditions shift, and the private sector's status quo is altered. Businesses need to recognize the symptoms of a crisis in time, quickly adapt to changes, think creatively, and take bold steps.

In a war, all the factors of an economic crisis are present, with the added threat to organizations and people's lives. Faced with an existential threat, all other threats pale in comparison. Fighting an external enemy stimulates patriotism, unity, and mutual support. In this situation, business interests, ambitions, and goals take a backseat, and leaders focus primarily on the survival of the people and the country.

A domestic political crisis is very different in nature. There may not be an immediate economic or existential threat, but it is a war of values. Values are the foundation of our "self," and our identity and belonging (to relatives, colleagues, friends, or country) are under attack. If the crisis is not overcome in time, there is a long-term risk of an economic crisis, loss of freedom, and existential danger. In such a situation, people may have to fight for survival not against an enemy but with a loved one, as we have seen in recent Georgian history.

Therefore, in my opinion, an internal political crisis is the most difficult situation for leaders. To navigate it, leaders must have great inner strength, caution, and courage.

Leadership strategies

Fear, stress, anger, irritation, emotional agitation, a complete lack of energy, difficulty focusing on work, a feeling of weakness, a sudden desire to fight, the desire to give up everything, a sense of responsibility and shame for one's weakness, calling out to oneself, taking action, and then again fear, stress, anger... Do these emotional roller coasters sound familiar? If so, I'd like to reassure you that this is a natural reaction to the challenges described above. Moreover, this emotional background is common to everyone, not just leaders.

Now imagine an organization where all employees and leaders are in this emotional state... It's a bleak scenario indeed. Every leader realizes that finding a way out of this situation is their responsibility, but the main question is how. How do we lead effectively in such chaos? How do we maintain our emotional equilibrium, clarity of thought, and resilience? More importantly, how can we harness the energy of stress within our organization and transform it into a force for positive change and growth?

Reflecting on these challenges, I've embarked on a personal quest to uncover strategies that enable me to fulfill my leadership duties with clarity and purpose each day. And now, I invite you to join me in this exploration. Let's share our insights, our triumphs, and even our struggles. Together, we can navigate these turbulent waters and emerge as transformational leaders, guiding our organizations through the storms towards calmer shores.

1. Accept Reality: If there is no problem - there is no solution. Therefore, not recognizing what is happening to us—both the current events in the country and our emotional stress—means leaving reality. The first step is to accept reality. We must correctly assess the scale of the crisis, the risks facing our organizations, and the degree of stress on ourselves and our team members. Acceptance of an unwelcome reality serves as the foundation for effective problem-solving.

2. Stay Informed: In times of crisis, staying informed about current developments is imperative for making well-informed and prompt decisions.

3. Prioritize Self-Care: To support others, the leader must be resourceful himself/herself. Leaders often make the critical mistake of focusing solely on solving problems during a crisis and forgetting to take care of themselves. A leader's physical, mental, and emotional well-being is directly related to their resourcefulness. Self-neglect weakens and exhausts the leader, diminishing their ability to make effective decisions. Even amidst high stress, dedicating time to self-care routines can provide surprising strength. For instance, incorporating daily exercise, meditation, or pursuing personal interests can significantly contribute to maintaining physical and emotional resilience.

4. Create A Supportive Environment: Leaders, like everyone else, experience fears, anxieties, and vulnerabilities. During times of crisis, it's essential to surround oneself with a supportive network of individuals who provide strength and energy. Whether it's family, friends, partners, or professional support like psychologists, drawing upon external sources of support is crucial for resilience.

5. Share Responsibility: Effective leadership entails sharing both power and responsibility with the team. Particularly in times of crisis, leaders should not bear the burden alone. Trusting the management team, fostering open discussions about risks and challenges, making collective decisions, delegating tasks, and jointly assuming responsibility for outcomes are vital strategies for navigating crises and managing stress.

6. Empathy and Effective Communication: Internal political conflict is one of the most difficult crises because society is divided and opposed to each other. We should not forget that an organization is also a community—a community united around one idea and goal. Consequently, the division that exists in society is likely to appear in the organization as well (especially in large organizations). If the responsibility for stabilizing society and the situation across the country falls on the government, within the organization, this responsibility rests with the leader and the management team. Therefore, the leader and management team must ensure effective communication within the organization, eliminate conflicts and restore or strengthen trust among employees. This can be achieved by bringing common interests to the fore and relegating differences to the background. For example, “We all want this country to develop”; “We all want more stability and security”; “We are all in this crisis together, and the consequences (both good and bad) will affect everyone”.

7. Leading by Example with Values-Based Decisions: In the context of internal political controversy and such an underdeveloped democracy as Georgia, publicly stating an opinion contrary to the government's position is risky. The leader of any private company is aware of this risk, which is not only related to the potential loss of business or income but also to the jobs and safety of employees. Therefore, leaders who do not share the ruling power's position on the "Law on the Transparency of the Influence of Foreign Powers" (the so-called Russian law) face a big dilemma. If they raise their voice and openly protest the government's decision, they risk their own and the organization's well-being. On the other hand, if they do not speak out or support the ruling force contrary to their beliefs, they lose self-respect and the trust of their employees, ultimately morally destroying the organization.

Advising leaders on this issue is challenging. However, one thing remains clear: leaders will have to make a choice and assume responsibility for the associated consequences

Featured Insights

Uncertainty is the cornerstone that defines the global marketplace and on which it ultimately depends. Conflicts such as political, trade, and social instabilities, among other factors, are known to upset this balance, presenting a challenge to international business. These disruptions could vary from direct supply chain interruptions to direct refusals of the consumption of the company's products, which can produce drastic effects in different corporations. Especially during such periods of uncertainty, communication, and marketing assets are vital instruments in weathering these storms and preserving the corporate image.

Modern Political Risks and Their Impact

For a long time, organizations were primarily concerned with operational risks, or more specifically, with economic and financial risks only. But soon, McKinsey & Company, in its Emerging Risks on the Global Agenda ([valid URL added]), presents political instabilities as one of the upcoming risk management concerns. This paper, informed by interviews with IT executives and the analysis of political risk data, highlights how vital it is for organizations to plan for political disruptions and need to have specified marketing communication plans. Politics, social issues, and the shifting geo-political landscape are key drivers that can challenge supply chains, undermine stakeholders' confidence, and diminish branding. These are some risks companies can face, and a proactive crisis communication and marketing strategy should not be lacking.

Crisis communication, a vital aspect in managing crises, is planning the type, content, channel, and timing of communicating and interacting with stakeholders during crises. This definition is also based on the standards of operation provided by the International Public Relations Association (IPRA), which is recognized as the world's premier association for public relations professionals. It only takes one communication slip during an incredibly volatile political period to significantly harm stakeholder trust and company image. On the other hand, effective communication management is an invaluable tool with little or no adverse effects because the public gets a positive impression of a company's responsible behavior during a crisis.

Critical Considerations for Efficient Crisis Messaging During the Political Hard Periods

Appropriate measures of crisis communication establish the radar for organizations to continue their operations unhampered by the disruptions of storms of a political nature. Here's how companies can establish a foundation for clear and impactful communication: 

Proactive Risk Identification: Businesses must understand politics. They have to adapt and deal with it. For this reason, the different institutions must analyze possible political risks regarding operations to identify weaknesses.

Building a Rapid Response Infrastructure: Crisis communication cannot afford to be slow. Organizations must set up a crisis communication team to react quickly to incipient decisions and disseminate them correspondingly. This team should comprise personnel from different departments, among them public relations, legal, and marketing departments, in case any issues arise. Efficient operational plans for precise and fast reactions should be set and agreed upon beforehand to avoid confusion and the formation of weak links.

Transparency and Empathy in Action: Maintaining and promoting ethical business conduct throughout the crisis cultivates business and consumer goodwill (in line with the communication principles highlighted by the IPR, 2023). For instance, Patagonia, a company famous for being an active voice in environmental issues, seized a political crisis – the U. S government shutdown – to bring to light its dedication to promoting sustainable practices; this is because the company ceased every advertising campaign during the events.

Multi-Channel Communication Strategy: Stakeholders' communication must occur using a comprehensive communication tool kit. The best way is to develop different messages for every social network because each is unique in some way. While a press release can formally announce events, social media is timely, open, and personal, providing status updates.

Crisis management and business continuity

Crisis communication plans can only fulfill business continuity and crisis management. This plan should outline action procedures associated with communication during risk management and supply chain disruption and accommodate protocols for employee safety and disaster response (Disaster Recovery Institute International [DRII], 2023). You can be confident that crisis communication advocates an essential aspect of these strategies, which involves the timely and accurate flow of information to all key stakeholders.

Adapting to marketing plans and strategies during a crisis has become necessary as a managerial strategy. Crisis communication is an inevitable communication activity in organizations, and it should be aligned with marketing communication strategies to keep the masses constantly informed about the firm's brands and products. This may involve:

  • Adapting Marketing Messages
  • Utilizing Social Media for Authentic Engagement
  • Pausing Insensitive Campaigns

Delving Deeper: Crisis communication and marketing are two key aspects organizations must consider, especially when running a business.

The harmonization of crisis communication and marketing during hard political periods are critical strategies that should be employed to ensure reputation management. Here's how businesses can achieve this.

  • Maintaining Brand Voice and Values: Companies must ensure that when communicating during a crisis and with customers in general, they adhere to their brand's fundamental values and tone. Maintaining consistency is an essential factor since it helps people develop trust and credibility in the brand's response to the crisis that is being faced.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Crisis response is another factor that raises the importance of a strong CSR strategy, as it will become a powerful weapon when the company is to defend itself from the negative consequences of the crisis.
  • Building Brand Support Through Transparency: There is a great degree of trust put in companies that are transparent within the climate of crisis communication.

Today's world can be described as vague, with politics constantly volatile. Therefore, everyone should strive to employ an integrated approach to crisis management in the event of such storms.


"Even the procurement of a simple teapot in our organization requires approval from the director," shared a manager of a prominent Georgian company during an interview conducted as part of an organizational diagnosis. Micromanagement and a lack of delegation are pervasive challenges among senior and middle managers. This management approach is one of the foremost barriers to organizational advancement. Let's explore its adverse effects on 3 levels: the employee, the manager, and the organization.

Employee Level:

Reduced Responsibility: Under constant control and task instruction, employees lose a sense of ownership over their activities. Consequently, they feel less accountable for the outcomes.

Decreased Work Quality: Micromanaged employees often lack a comprehensive understanding of their tasks' broader context and purpose. Without clear guidance from their manager, they struggle to deliver high-quality work that aligns with organizational goals.

Impeded Growth: When employees are inundated with detailed instructions rather than given tasks matching their skill level, their professional development suffers. Additionally, micromanagement discourages risk-taking and learning from mistakes, hindering personal and career growth.

Demotivation: Research underscores the importance of feeling valued and having autonomy in the workplace for maintaining high motivation levels. In micromanaged environments, employees feel neither important nor free within their areas of expertise. This lack of recognition and autonomy breeds dissatisfaction and can lead to increased toxicity in the workplace or even prompt employees to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Manager Level:

1. Stress and Burnout: Micromanagers often find themselves overwhelmed by the perceived irresponsibility of their team members. They bear the weight of decision-making alone, wondering why the burden of results seems to rest solely on their shoulders. This constant pressure inevitably leads to heightened stress levels and eventual burnout.

2. Relationship Deterioration: The stress and burnout experienced by micromanagers frequently spill over into their interactions with team members. Feelings of unfairness, anger, and frustration brew, souring the manager-employee dynamic. This can manifest as subtle hostility or open aggression, eroding trust and damaging relationships within the team.

3. Stunted Development: Caught in the cycle of micromanagement, managers have little time or energy to focus on their growth and development. Their incessant need for control precludes the exploration of new skills or opportunities for advancement. Additionally, their perceived indispensability impedes any possibility of transitioning to new roles or seeking promotion, leading to their career stagnation despite their desire for change.

Organizational Level:

1. Decreased Productivity: Micromanagement stifles employees' ability to fully leverage their skills and potential, resulting in suboptimal performance. Moreover, by burdening managers with excessive responsibility and control, the organization inadvertently creates a bottleneck that hampers its effectiveness. Consequently, overall productivity suffers, impeding the organization's ability to achieve its goals.

2. Diminished Creativity and Innovation: Under the constraints of micromanagement, employees find themselves spending more time awaiting directives from managers rather than exploring new ideas or initiatives. This stifling environment fosters a culture of passivity, where individuals hesitate to take initiative for fear of reprisal. Consequently, creativity is stifled, and innovative solutions remain untapped, hindering the organization's ability to adapt and thrive.

3. Unhealthy Organizational Climate: Micromanagement erodes trust between employees and managers, fostering mutual dissatisfaction and undermining collaboration. Low productivity and dissatisfaction with outcomes become the norm, fueling both, silent and open conflicts, within the organization. This toxic atmosphere becomes a daily source of stress for both - managers and employees alike, sowing discord and impeding progress.

However, despite the evident drawbacks of micromanagement, why do managers persist in adopting this leadership style? Based on my observations, micromanagement stems from three primary factors:

1. Belief: Managers strongly believe that constant oversight and task delegation are essential for ensuring work quality and achieving optimal results. They presume that by permanent monitoring and assigning tasks, they can maintain control and uphold standards.

2. Desire: Micromanagers harbor a deep-seated desire to feel indispensable and valued within the organization. Consciously or unconsciously, they consistently emphasize their importance, often expressing sentiments such as, "No one can do it like I can" or "Nothing gets done without me." These expressions betray an underlying craving for security and recognition.

3. Fear: Micromanagers are driven by an underlying fear of competition and the potential loss of their position within the organization. Subconsciously, they dread the idea of work progressing without their direct involvement, questioning their relevance and necessity. This fear of being sidelined or replaced fuels their need for control, leading them to tightly restrict their employees' areas of responsibility.

In essence, micromanagement is fueled by a combination of deeply ingrained beliefs, desires for validation, and subconscious fears. These factors perpetuate a cycle of control and restriction, hindering both individual and organizational growth.

Ultimately, the key lies in transforming a micromanager into an effective leader. If you resonate with the aforementioned insights, the roadmap to this transformation becomes clearer: To instill the art of delegation in managers, we must first address their underlying beliefs, desires, and fears.

The initial step entails guiding them to RECOGNIZE the detrimental impacts of micromanagement on themselves, their teams, and the organization as a whole. By illuminating these losses and negative effects, we pave the way for a paradigm shift.

Subsequently, we must present an alternative reality — a VISION of the possibilities that emerge once liberated from the confines of micromanagement. Helping managers envision a future where they play a more strategic and influential role fuels their motivation to relinquish control and foster the growth of their team members and successors. Encouraging them to visualize themselves in elevated positions or more engaging roles ignites the drive to pursue their development path fervently.

Lastly, consistent and tailored SUPPORT is paramount in nurturing their journey toward effective leadership. Equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills combined with ongoing guidance and mentorship ensures they navigate the transition with confidence and efficacy. By embracing this holistic approach, we empower micromanagers to shed their restrictive tendencies and emerge as visionary leaders who inspire and empower their teams to achieve greatness.