3 minute read 17 Apr 2020

How to strengthen inclusive leadership in times of crisis

By Karyn Twaronite

EY Global Vice Chair - Diversity, Equity & Inclusiveness

Driver of diversity and inclusiveness programs to provide equitable opportunities and experiences for all. Passionate advocate for creating a sense of belonging.

3 minute read 17 Apr 2020

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  • Inclusive leadership in times of crisis (pdf)

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  • EY Diversity and Inclusiveness Roadmap brochure (pdf)

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  • Preference, tradition or requirement (pdf)

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Trending topics to support and amplify the impact of your leadership efforts. 

In times of stress and uncertainty, people look to their leaders and to those around them for signals to reaffirm who they are, how they should act and how they will come together in solidarity and support. Inclusive leadership can “supercharge” the efforts you are already engaging in to offer a more positive experience than what people may be experiencing outside of work.

At EY, we are committed to D&I with strong foundational building blocks, such as the EY Global Executive Diversity & Inclusion Statement. This steadfast commitment is a key enabler as we navigate together through times of global crisis.

What are people thinking about?

In today’s unprecedented environment, we’re seeing emerging trends with widespread impact.

Working remotely can mean a new sense of isolation and challenging team dynamics. Studies show that remote workers can feel isolated and lonely, and this can impact physical and mental well-being, engagement and morale.

Additionally, “insider-outsider” dynamics may increase in a virtual environment. By human nature, we gravitate toward those who are like us. This may be amplified in times of stress and in a virtual environment in which some may already find interactions to be more difficult. This can negatively impact those who are already underrepresented on teams and may expand inequities.

Increased xenophobia is also on people’s minds, even if it’s not openly discussed. Xenophobia has risen globally in the past few years, with further escalations against the backdrop of COVID-19. The impact carries across a broad spectrum of people, including those in targeted groups, their wider communities and those who care about them.

What can you do?

We’ve identified several ways to amplify the positive impact of your leadership efforts: 

1. Consistently role model inclusive behaviors and hold your leaders accountable to do the same.

Especially in virtual environments, consider if you have heard from everyone on the call, and if you have considered all team members for your project vs. the same select few.

2. Continue to keep diversity and inclusiveness (D&I) on your team’s agenda.

Visible, sustained commitment to D&I matters, especially now. Learn more about the EY D&I Culture Change Continuum (pdf)

3. Ask yourself and your teams: Preference, tradition or requirement (PTR)?

The EY PTR model can be used to challenge existing processes and ways of operating. This can help frame new decisions and raise appropriate challenges for better outcomes. 

4. Remember that inclusive leadership calls for equitable decision-making.

This encompasses equity in staffing, pay and promotions; access to stretch assignments; and feedback, among other aspects. This is especially important now, as current events may likely disproportionately impact underrepresented groups outside of work (for example, trends show that new, additional caregiving and home needs fall heavily to women). While we may not be able to control external forces, we can help to ensure equitable decisions within our own organizations.

5. Reinforce connections through check-ins and ask leaders to make certain that all team members are being connected with.

An EY study showed that people felt the greatest sense of belonging at work when colleagues checked in with them individually.

6. Leverage accessible tools and resources for meetings and create multiple avenues for all team members to voice ideas and contributions.

Actively solicit input from those who may be less vocal and focus on outputs, not “face-to-face time.” Visibly value contribution and impact and be as flexible as possible in working hours arrangements.

7. Build connections with empathy and curiosity, recognizing that your personal frame of reference will differ from others.

Openly share what’s on your mind and encourage others to do the same. Make it a point to dig below the surface in your check-ins, to reinforce authentic connections and build a sense of belonging for all. The EY guidance on belonging (pdf)  can help individuals and teams foster conversations and create positive belonging experiences for all.


During times of crisis, people look to their leaders for support, solidarity and confirmation of their values. At EY, we believe inclusive leadership can “supercharge” leadership efforts and offer a more positive experience for people who may be experiencing periods of stress or uncertainty.

About this article

By Karyn Twaronite

EY Global Vice Chair - Diversity, Equity & Inclusiveness

Driver of diversity and inclusiveness programs to provide equitable opportunities and experiences for all. Passionate advocate for creating a sense of belonging.