Leading through the Corona Crisis: Are you Stepping up or Stepping away?

Leading through the Corona Crisis: Are you Stepping up or Stepping away?

Over the last few weeks of coaching leaders, I’ve been observing two different responses to the challenges we are all facing: some leaders are stepping up, thriving, and others are stepping away, withdrawing and isolating themselves.

I’ve also been completing a Certificate of Applied Neuroscience, with the fabulous Dr Irena O’Brien, Neuroscience School.  Irena shared with me that these responses can be explained when we consider ‘Action Vs State’ orientation.

Action-Oriented Individuals

Even facing the Corona Crisis, Action-Oriented Individuals are thriving, they have the capacity to regulate their:

  • Emotions

  • Thoughts

  • Behaviours

Action-Oriented Individuals:

Face challenges head-on – they go at the problem.

Respond with confidence and enthusiasm to achieve what they need to do.

Believe they have CHOICE in how they respond to the crisis.

Despite the challenges, they have a solid sense of self.

State Orientation Individuals

State Orientation Individuals, on the other hand, struggle to regulate their:

  • Emotions

  • Thoughts

  • Behaviours

State Orientation Individuals:

Find it very difficult to modify their state – their anxiety, confusion, and uncertainty.

They can’t readily evaluate which action is the most useful.

They are unsure of what to do next.

They don’t formulate clear goals.

Because of their reliance on external cues rather than self-regulation, they hesitate and procrastinate.

Have difficulty changing from one task to another.

Support State Oriented Individuals by encouraging them to:

  • Define their goals very clearly

  • Define what they need to do to achieve their goals

  • Identify the specific activities that they need to action

  • Identify roadblocks that may arise along the way and how they would deal with them.

Let’s get specific:

  • Their goals need to be very specific

  • Chunk their goals down to tasks they can succeed at

  • Help them to celebrate progress, even if it is a tiny achievement, as this releases dopamine and they are more likely to succeed at their next task.

If they are experiencing stress and anxiety:

Be aware that their anxiety ramps up when they are not sure of what to do next, and sometimes, the anxiety can last for days.

To ease that anxiety, encourage them to take the next step, even if it is tiny.

Encourage them to plan out their day/week ahead.

It’s not that they are not motivated to take action, it’s just that they might need someone else to provide some guidance to get them moving forward.  You might be just that person 😊


Kuhl, J. (1981). Motivational and functional helplessness: The moderating effect of state versus action orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 155-170.

Kuhl, J. (1994b). Action and state orientation: Psychometric properties of the action control scales (ACS-90). In J. Kuhl & J. Beckmann (Eds.), Volition and personality: Action vs. state orientation (pp. 47-59). Gottingen: Hogrefe.

Kuhl, J. (2000). A functional-design approach to motivation and volition: The dynamics of personality systems interactions.

In M. Boekaerts, P.R. Pintrich, & M. Zeidner (Eds.), Self-regulation: Directions and challenges for future research (pp. 111-169). New York: Academic Press.