By Natalie Bauer Luce

The late night show hosts are delivering their monologues from home. Restaurants and bars around the country are all but deserted, and our great American cities look like they have been cast as the setting for the latest zombie apocalypse blockbuster.

Meanwhile, I’ve used the term “pandemic” in casual conversation more times in the last week than all my years prior.

These are truly strange times.

As we all attempt to make sense of the spreading corona virus threat, there are two truths we can be certain of: 1.) This crisis is unprecedented, and 2.) No one will be untouched by this global event.

Everything else is subject to change.

Yet, because of the gravity of the threat and the pace at which it is barreling ahead, leaders in government and business are being forced to act decisively off a limited set of facts that are morphing seemingly by the minute.

In times of adversity, we discover our true leaders. Those rising to the challenge are finding their way by returning to their organization’s guiding purpose. Filtering out the hysteria around COVID-19, brands that focus in on what makes them uniquely suited to help in this crisis – no matter how big or small a part they can play – will ultimately weather this storm. (And importantly, for some, that may mean playing no part at all—I’m looking at you, professional sports leagues).

Examples abound. When it was clear social distancing was critical but that it would devastate the hospitality industry, food delivery apps like GrubHub quickly stepped up to delay collecting fees from its restaurant partners. Video conferencing provider Zoom launched a free version of its technology to suddenly home-bound office workers, and for all those new work-from-home parents, Disney saved the day by releasing “Frozen 2” weeks ahead of schedule.

Lots more has been and will be written about the mechanics of managing and communicating through this extraordinary crisis, but if organizations fail to act with intention and authenticity at their core, their decisions will risk being greatly misinterpreted (at best) at a time of heightened sensitivities.

As leaders continue to confront a challenge few of us could have conjured up in our minds before last week, we can add a third rule of certainty to the list:  Let your purpose be your guiding principle, and it will steer you straight.

Natalie Bauer Luce is Executive Vice President of Culloton + Bauer Luce.