7 Ways Great Leaders Help Others Adjust To Big, Life-Altering Change

You can cultivate, grow and enhance these seven powerful traits.

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It takes skill to navigate life-altering change and uncertainty at work. When life-altering change lands in your workplace, all eyes are on you, the leader.

It's up to you to provide direction even before the dust begins to settle. Great leaders recognize how unsettling change can be to others and do everything in their power to mitigate the effects of stress, anxiety and uncertainty.

Leadership in times of stress and uncertainty

If the first eight weeks of 2023 teach us anything, certainly on the job front, it’s to expect and brace for more change. The tech industry’s already massive layoffs in late 2022 are likely to accelerate in 2023


This is especially stressful for those recently laid off as they face a job hunt in a downsizing market. Unsurprisingly, such sudden and enormous change has a ripple effect. Survivors reporting to work next to empty desks where their colleagues once sat experience shock, sadness and guilt. 

RELATED: How To Cope With Major Life Transitions When Change Makes You Nervous


Working from home creates stress, too

For those spared the layoffs and still working from home, not being present with colleagues can be unsettling for them. It makes it more difficult to express their emotions, compounding the stress.

Leaders who remain after layoffs have their own emotions to work through, while also tasked with picking up the pieces and helping team members process theirs.

RELATED: 75 Best Quotes About Change To Motivate & Inspire You

The decline in worldwide happiness

As if these personal, life-altering events are not enough, conditions worldwide also contribute to a general increase in negative emotions. According to Gallup’s global research on subjective well-being, anger, stress, sadness, physical pain and worry have never been at higher levels.


Your staff feels it and you’re experiencing it yourself. It makes for a tough environment to lead, but metaphorical battlefields such as these create the conditions where great leaders are made. 

If you want to emerge a strong, compassionate and supportive leader to your team, you’ll need to tap into your greatest strengths.

RELATED: What Does A 'Fresh Start' Even Mean? The Psychology Of Dealing With Change

Here are seven traits great leaders use to help others adjust to life-altering changes at work

1. Adaptability

Adaptability is the capacity to quickly and effectively respond to change, uncertainty, and ambiguity. In acute situations like big layoffs, the best leaders set aside everything else and adapt to the situation.


It is the ability to recognize that this is ‘Day One’ of a different world. After your initial assessment, work through your emotions intelligently.

2. Emotional intelligence

The ability to understand, manage, and express your own emotions, as well as the emotions of those around you are key to emotional intelligence.

Expect tears, anger, frustration and fear. The best leaders experience these emotions but are adept at keeping them hidden or expressing them in a way that does not foster more negative emotions from the team. Be sure to work through your own emotions before you make any decisions. That being said, this is a situation for you to be authentic and lead with empathy

3. Decisiveness 

The ability to analyze information, weigh options, and make sound decisions based on a set of criteria. Indecision and analysis/paralysis are unhealthy traits in the best of times. They can be destructive during life-altering changes at work. Take the information you have and decide. Next, you’ll need to reach out to your team.


4. Strong communication skills

The ability to clearly and effectively communicate with others, both verbally and in writing. The best leaders don’t wait for all the details and approvals to communicate a perfectly crafted message. It is imperative to share the knowledge you have and to do it quickly.

If you wait too long, rumors abound as people fill in the gaps with their own often negative best guesses. Even if you know very little, be honest with your team and share with them what you do know. Tell them of the decisions you or those above you will be making and that you will be thinking strategically about the long-term direction of your team.

5. Strategic thinking

The ability to think creatively, critically, and systematically about the long-term direction and success of an organization. After the initial emotional processing, decision making and communicating what you know, the best leaders begin thinking strategically about possible long-term plans for the future. Additionally, strategic thinking is a key aspect of executive presence.

Top leadership in the C-suite may already be working on this. Nevertheless, you will need to interpret and modify it so you can apply it to the team you lead. This is a good time to partner with your colleagues or senior leaders to ensure everyone is on the same page.


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6. A collaborative attitude 

The ability to work effectively with others to achieve common goals. Remember, you don't need to navigate and lead through life-altering change alone. Work your networks to gather as much information as you can to keep yourself and your colleagues and team informed.

7. Resilience

The capacity to bounce back from adversity, manage stress and maintain a positive outlook. There is a right time to move on from a life-altering change at work. The best leaders instinctively know when that is.

Too soon, and people feel you didn’t take the time to fully validate their feelings. In the same fashion, belaboring the grief in the aftermath of change is not leadership, either. 


RELATED: 5 Critical Mental Skills Required To Be An Excellent Leader

Great leaders seize the chance to manage change

Most of us prefer not to deal with transition, but as a leader, adapting to and embracing life-altering change is your opportunity to help others through this uncertain and emotional battlefield.

Keep in mind, people are already stressed and anxious. Life-altering changes like job layoffs multiply stress and anxiety. The best leaders understand the value of helping others to adjust, overcome and ultimately thrive again. 

By adopting a positive outlook and leading a new future for yourself and your team, you’re building a lasting legacy of leadership.


RELATED: 8 Habits That Successful Leaders Practice In Order To Build A Lasting Legacy

Brent Roy, PCC, CPLC, CMC, is a certified executive, career and personal development coach. He works with men and women who want to increase their confidence and boost their executive presence to prepare them for promotion or a new career. For more ways he can help, please reach out!