Leaders who are adept at turning difficult situations into competitive advantages will equip their organizations with the endurance it takes to consistently win. Leading during times of crisis is as disorienting as it is illuminating.
As you face your next unexpected leadership problem, consider the following behaviors to help you lead your team to the other side while also preparing yourself and your organization to effectively confront the next crisis that comes your way.
1. Follow your values: Our values bring needed clarity and perspective in difficult or challenging situations. Furthermore, organizational values are always helpful context for leaders when they explain to their teams the rationale that informed their decisions.
For leaders, their values will always be the most reliable and consistent voice in the room. All leaders must do is give them a voice in the process of making the hard decisions that come with leading through a crisis.
2. Be spontaneous: Many crises are hard to predict and hard to plan for. When faced with a crisis, be willing to put your current strategic plan on hold, or, if necessary, scrap it altogether. Most businesses didn’t have a section of their strategic plan dedicated to the possibility of a worldwide pandemic. Yet, every leader found themselves and their organizations standing in the middle of one.
In a crisis, things may change rapidly and abruptly. Timely information must be obtained and assessed to formulate and implement a near-term response. In these situations, embracing “good enough” is often preferable than spending time worrying about what should be done and when. It’s better to act and assess impact in real-time than to stay in limbo. A leader who prefers precision may find this uncomfortable. A flexible mindset helps to improve leadership agility, which is needed when navigating uncertainty.
3. Put your people at the forefront: A crisis first prepares leaders for their next big challenge. As important, a leader’s actions and behaviours during a crisis shape how team members perceive them. Without their team’s support, even the best plan a leader develops won’t go far before failing.
During a crisis, put your people at the forefront by implementing the following steps:
- Be transparent about the situation and don’t sugarcoat the situation.
- Make a plan for when you’ll make important decisions, particularly ones that will impact your team. Keep your promises.
- Give team members a role in the solution you develop and implement because they want to be a part of it. You will be able to say, “Look what we accomplished by working together. ”
4. Take some time to think, learn, and grow: Leaders should make it a priority to reflect on what they are experiencing and how they are either reacting or responding to what’s taking place. Being willing to ask for feedback from a trusted circle of confidants provides a helpful perspective for leaders to consider as they work to strengthen their effectiveness.
Leaders should ask themselves the following questions as part of their own reflection process:
What would I do in a similar situation?
What would I do differently?
How will I apply this learning going forward?
Leadership development is not something that happens by chance. It’s the outcome of practising conscious self-reflection on a regular basis and improving our capacity to use the insights and wisdom that come from it.
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