Leading Through a Crisis – Part 1

Leading Through a Crisis – Part 1

Things are strange out there right now. I would dare say 99% of us have not lived through anything remotely as serious as the situation we’re facing. Times like these tend to drag our focus as business leaders into all the ‘noise’ around us – blow by blow media updates, panic, worry, paralysis.

Leadership guru John C Maxwell states that leaders are not made in times of crisis, they are revealed. Nobody ever became a great leader overnight. Leadership is a skill that can be learned and practiced, so those who have been learning and practicing over the past several months and years are now stepping up and finding out what they’re capable of. Those who haven’t yet invested in their own leadership development are looking for strong leaders to help show them the way.

In this 2-part article, we’ll take a look at how leaders at ALL levels – parents, not for profit leaders, coaches, business owners, medical professionals, politicians – can step up and influence those around us for the better. Because, at its core, leadership IS influence. Bad leadership precipitates a faster fall while good leadership offers steadiness and perseverance. In Part 1, we’ll look at how we need to ‘show up’ as leaders for our people.

First things first – get your information from credible sources. Limit the amount of media (journalistic and social) you consume. We as leaders need to tune out the noise. And there is an awful lot of it right now. This is not a political issue, this is not a religious issue. It’s a virus that doesn’t discriminate. We need to tune IN to the medical community and real journalism, not the noise.

Leaders rarely have two good days in a row, eh? So we are used to leading through rough times and showing up on the bad days. This crisis is simply a string of bad days we can’t walk away from. John Maxwell defines ‘crisis’ as  ‘an intense time of difficulty requiring a decision that will be a turning point’. This situation will eventually pass. We just need to ensure we keep our heads and remain steady throughout the duration.

We as leaders need to define reality for those we lead. This is not the first crisis we have ever faced – remember the ‘tech bubble’ bursting, the ‘cold war’, Y2K, AIDS, bird flu, 9/11, Ebola? As a matter of fact, there have been worldwide events/crises every few years at least as far back as I can remember, and I’m nearly 50. And do you know what? We made it through those situations. Yes, some were worse than others with regard to loss of life and financial losses – but we figured them out. And we’ll figure THIS one out. The people you lead need to hear the voice of reason right now. Define reality for them and help them re-focus their anxiety on staying in positive motion. Actually, according to my Clinical Psychologist partner, your people need 3 things right now that YOU can provide:

  • Calm
  • Certainty
  • Positive ACTION

We as leaders need to put the people first. Who ‘the people’ depend upon who you lead. Now, our government has put some financial support in place for employers and the self-employed so that we can catch a breath and focus on keeping our teams employed or ourselves afloat at least for the medium term. Every single business has been affected by this situation and will continue to be affected by it. Good leaders will be thinking beyond the next 3 months and will be communicating regularly and calmly with their teams about how the business can look ‘after COVID-19’. What short-term pain must you all bear now in order to come out the other side even MORE fit for purpose?

Crises are distracting – they pull us away from the things we WANT into things like negativity and anxiety. As leaders, we need to remember that even though the sky might be falling for some of those around us, the sky isn’t falling for us because we will remain focused on those things we CAN CONTROL. And that’s the second thing we need to do now – keep our focus single-mindedly on what we can control about our situation.

People around us are losing traction left and right – let’s help them regain traction by setting the example. We know that people do what people see. Let’s show them how to behave in this situation by remaining calm, providing a sense of hope or certainty and directing ourselves and our teams to take positive action.

Ultimately, this crisis will reveal what is inside each of us. Our choices over the years shape our character. Crises simply reveal the result of those choices. I’m showing up for you and for those I lead. What positive action can you take today that will help you stay the course?

In Part 2, we’ll look at the 3 Ps you need to be focusing on right now – Pivot, Protect, Profit.

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