Most leaders believe they’re prepared to lead through a crisis. But many of them don’t fully understand what crisis leadership entails. Faced with an actual crisis playing out in real time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by uncertainty. Here are some touchstones to help you remember the things you need to do to maintain forward movement—not only for yourself but also for those who are counting on you.
Meet people where they are. Your first instinct may be to rush into action, but your first job in any crisis is to make sure your people feel safe. Once you’ve addressed that essential element, you can move on to the next steps.
Look ahead, not just around. While you’re reacting to what’s happening in the moment, you also need to be thinking and projecting several steps ahead through every likely scenario. Especially if you can map what’s happening now against an earlier crisis, you can determine what you’re likely to encounter and be prepared to meet it.
Expect frequent course corrections. In times of crisis things are always changing. Make a plan, but be prepared for course corrections along the way. Agility and flexibility make the best plans work, and the more perspectives you consider the better prepared you’ll be to adapt.
Communicate continually. The worst thing you can do in a crisis is to leave your people in the dark. They need to trust that you’ll always let them know what’s going on, even if the news is bad or the answer is “I don’t know.”
Set priorities. Even in the best of times, leaders have to balance urgent needs with longer-term but equally important tasks. In times of crisis, it’s more important than ever to determine what you need to deal with immediately, what can wait, and what you can delegate.
Make sure you’re learning. There is nothing more important than learning from each crisis—examining what is working and what is not, and applying that as experience. If the past can’t teach you what you need to know, make sure you can apply what you learn along the way to the future.
Aim for constant growth. Every crisis is an opportunity to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of your leadership. Reflect on your initial responses to stress, your emotions and behaviors. As yourself how you can better handle the human dimensions of the crisis. Even in the most challenging situations, great leaders are constantly working to effectively deal with their own limitations, fears and insecurities.
Elevate others. In stressful times it’s more important than ever to seek out ways to empower and inspire people. Put the well-being of your people before anything else.
The way you treat people in a time of crisis will define much of your legacy as a leader.
Lead from within: In a crisis, it’s not the command-and-control type of leader who is successful but the one who stands with their people. This is where the “rubber hits the road”. This is where “leadership from the inside” will only work if you have the goods. Trust in God, love for your people, patience, remaining calm in the storm, are all reflective of a rooted heart in the security that God alone can provide.
BH/Adapted: Lolly Daskal