COMPETENT IN CRISIS
Lead long enough and you’ll have a significant crisis, no matter how strong your leadership is. If you aren’t a growing leader, learning and communicating, your crises will be many and come sooner and closer together than you imagined possible. But every leader will have crises from time to time. It is the nature of life.
The leadership capacity of a person is always tested in crisis. The stress of the situation will either highlight how level-headed and competent the leader is, or will show in full color where his weaknesses lie. If you want to survive the crisis and come out with your leadership intact, in fact, perhaps even strengthened, there are a few traits that you must develop.
1 LEAD, DON’T DELEGATE LEADERSHIP IN A CRISIS.
In a national crisis, the President of the United States is generally quick to hold a press conference and personally step to the mic. It may be very tempting to pass the responsibility for assuring people or clarifying the situation, particularly if you expect criticism. But that will only amp the questions, murmuring, and fear. YOU are the leader when you are riding the surf of success, or when you are fighting the fearsome waves of crisis. They HAVE to see YOU.
2 CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS; NEVER LET YOUR EMOTIONS CONTROL YOU.
In a crisis, everyone is watching the leader. The leader sets the tone and climate for everyone else. Get a grip on your own angst, and maintain a positive example for your followers. Being cool, calm, and collected with inspire and calm them; plus, it will give you the ability to anticipate and handle the curve-balls coming your way.
3 MAN UP, or WOMAN UP, AND BE BRAVE.
Courage is a choice. It doesn’t mean having no fear. It means rising above your fear to take the next right step anyway. If you get paralyzed by your circumstances, you are overwhelmed with stress. Stress turns into fear in a nano-second. Fear is understandable when confronted with crisis, but you have to choose to be brave in spite of the crisis. You can do it. If you remain brave, and courageously do the next right thing, your team will follow you. A brave, untied team can face anything and survive.
4 HOLD YOURSELF PERSONALLY ACCOUNTABLE.
One of the differences between good leaders and poor leaders concerns managing mistakes. Even great leaders make mistakes sometimes. The difference is not the absence of mistakes—it’s what happens when they DO make a mistake or error in judgment. Good leaders quickly own up to their mistakes. Good leaders own up to when they make mistakes. As I said, people are always watching the leader, and most people know when you make a mistake, whether you own it or not. People are not going to enthusiastically and confidently follow a leader who will not acknowledge when she has made a mistake. However, taking responsibility for any actions that you have taken that could have contributed to the crisis prompts your team members to own their own contributions and work with you wholeheartedly, not just into working on the situation with you wholeheartedly, instead of from obligation.
5 DON’T TAKE CRISIS, FAILURE, OR SETBACKS PERSONALLY.
While a great leader holds herself/himself personally accountable, they don’t make the problem a personal issue. They separate their personal feelings from the crisis. When it becomes “all about me”, and how people will think about me, about how it affects me, I completely disable myself to be an objective leader. While I am busy navel-gazing, I will likely miss the fact that crisis often brings out control and power dynamics in other leaders. I may find myself magnifying the crisis by allowing another agenda to take root, and find my leadership being challenged by another would-be leader.
6 KEEP IT POSITIVE.
From start to finish, leadership is deeply intertwined with attitude. You just can’t separate the quality of your leadership from the quality of your leadership. Keeping your head high, requiring excellence of yourself, believing that the best is going to come from the situation, making keeping the morale high one of your premiere and priority tasks will enable a successful resolution. If the leader is discouraged and discouraging, the rest of the team doesn’t know what to do. Give yourself a positive transfusion every single day—don’t face your team without it.
All of these elements are vital for successful leadership 365 days a year, but especially in crisis. Don’t breathe a sigh of relief too quickly and jump back into pre-crisis mode too quickly. The end of the crisis is not just when you pull yourself out of the hole that it put you in. The crisis is never truly over until the team has recovered and is moving on. That may take a bit. The end of the crisis is when the team has started to recover and is moving on, which might take a bit. Keep a watch on morale, and continue to proactively offer support and encouragement. Gratitude to the team for their masterful cooperation and work in the crisis will go a long way to preparing you for the next crisis, which may be here before you know it. That’s just leadership.