Editor’s note: Anthony Caputo is VP of people operations at Remesh.

We are in the middle of an unprecedented global health crisis, volatile economic conditions and other tension – and that is a lot to experience at once, for both leaders and managers. Stress caused by this uncertainty has the power to grab our attention, mask right from wrong and sometimes even change the way we think and act. This poses a real challenge for leaders and managers. So what does successful leadership look like in this period of time?

To gain a better understanding of what it is like to lead and manage through this pandemic, we partnered with Mercer | Sirota at Remesh to conduct a virtual focus group with a convenience sample of 256 employees working in small, medium and large organizations. The research sample, which was drawn mostly from U.S. companies, included employees from different regions, job levels and generations. Three social-emotional findings emerged.

First, the majority of leaders and managers are concerned about COVID-19. When leaders were asked how worried they are that this virus could affect them or their families, 52% said they were concerned or very concerned. The biggest concerns about workplace impact had to do with ambiguity – not knowing how the shift to remote work would impact their jobs and the fear of ineffective flow of information throughout their organizations.

Second, seven out of 10 leaders are struggling with intimacy and isolation. When we asked leaders and managers what their biggest challenges are in managing through the crisis, less than half of them said managing the pressures of living life like social distancing or getting food and cleaning supplies. Their biggest challenges are managing their own feelings of isolation (67%), and a lack of intimacy. Additionally, seven out of 10 leaders and managers indicated that though they’re taking care of family, they are still being productive at work.

Third, the need for social support and encouragement is paramount. Not only do leaders and managers have to balance the demand that comes with managing a team or department and their own performance, but they have to manage the pressure associated with being an employee who is going through a pandemic themselves. When we asked what could help mitigate this pressure, nine out of 10 leaders indicated reassurance that their jobs and income were safe.

Considered together, results from this virtual focus group identified four immediate steps leaders and managers can take to better themselves and the people they lead.

1. Focus on self-care

The average workday for the U.S. worker has increased by almost 40% since changes enabled by COVID-19, according to a recent report, and physically working longer means more social interaction with co-workers and our bosses. Furthermore, an increasing number of people are reporting feeling more exhausted by the end of a work-from-home day, compared to a day in the office. In other words, while most of us are not on the front lines of the health care system putting ourselves in danger, all of us are in some ways a first responder to someone in need for emotional support.

In their recent HBR Article, leadership experts Whitney Johnson and Amy Humble recommend that if you really want to take care of others, it starts by taking care of yourself. Leaders who are capable of knowing their limits, asking for help when they need it, and are capable of re-inspiring themselves are considered highly engaging leaders. So, acknowledge your own need for a break – and take it. The more you can do to manage the emotional toll this pandemic is having on you, the more resilient you will become as a leader. 

2. Show compassion

Perhaps one of the most important things any leader or manager can do during this time is to show compassion for the people around them. Organizational psychologist Adam Grant writes that building community, connection and camaraderie are some of the most important things we can do as leaders. By asking your employees how they are feeling, what their concerns are and what support they need right now, you can increase resilience as well as the ability to cope.

In a recent interview with Laszlo Bock, CEO and Co-Founder at Humu, Bock proposes two small but powerful questions for all people managers to ask: “How are you doing?” and “How can I help?”

Bock recommends taking a structured approach to asking these two questions with your team to make sure your employees feel secure and motivated, which is far more important than driving productivity during this time.

3. The way you listen matters

In this new world, it is extremely important for leaders to become good listeners and develop an empathetic management approach to protect their employees from feelings of isolation – a sentiment echoed in one report by Mercer on the importance of listening. In a recent HBR review, executive coach Peter Bregman writes that in order to be empathetic, you must first learn to be curious. The first step to showing you understand what your employees are going through is taking the time to develop the right understanding and to ask the right questions. 

4. Lead with your values

Just as people have values, so do organizations. Organizational values determine the right behavior and the wrong behavior. Organizational values should be the guiding light for your employees when they are faced with the most ambiguous situations. A recent article from MIT Sloan explains how leaders and managers should do everything they can to align employee skills, processes and rituals to empower employees to take value-led actions. They recommend leaders take a hard look at their values, ask what your organization really values, and understand how they manifest in difficult situations. Finally, they recommend delivering consistently – not just every time, but at in all levels and all situations to prevent diminishing those values.

Leading through a pandemic

As leaders and managers, it is important to understand that first and foremost, this pandemic is a human and social crisis. Quarantines and social restrictions have made resilience and compassion matter now more than ever. As we acclimate and adapt to a whole new world, remember to take a compassionate approach to recreating yourself – as a leader, and as a person. The leadership decisions and personal choices we make today will create the careers and companies of tomorrow. Just as Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."