This paper compares Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers’ crisis response communication about COVID-19. We examine how gender performativity and contextual factors contribute to each leader’s discursive ‘style’ at the lexical level, and explore micro-diachronic changes as the pandemic unfolded. Informed by corpus linguistics approaches, we analysed written texts published on each leader’s website between January and December 2020, using Scattertext to visualise lexical differences between each leader’s corpus, and mapping frequencies against coronavirus case numbers in each country. Guided by these results, closer qualitative analysis reveals that whereas Jacinda Ardern quickly established and maintained a consistent and highly personalised style in guiding New Zealanders through the pandemic, Scott Morrison’s messaging was both less personal and more reactive to the epidemic curve. However, despite some traces of stereotypically gendered language, neither leader made gender salient in their COVID-19 crisis response communication.