“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”— Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil rights leader
The coronavirus pandemic has placed extraordinary demands on leaders in all fields. The humanitarian toll taken by COVID-19 creates fear among employees and other stakeholders. The massive scale of the outbreak and its sheer unpredictability make it challenging for executives to respond. Apart from emotional disturbance, Leaders feel disoriented and a loss of control.
This crisis is a reminder of how rapidly things can change and of the need to be able to move with speed and agility. Leaders are challenged to achieve the right intensity and tone for their response. When the context is changing exponentially, it is near impossible to time your response appropriately – too early and you may contribute to alarmist panic. Too late and your complacency could have significant consequences.
In addition to making the right decisions for the specific situation, leaders also need to provide confidence, reduce anxiety, and help employees function with some level of normalcy. The role of Leaders is particularly important because during times of uncertainty and crisis, people look to authority figures to provide direction. These executives have to not only provide this direction but do so in an empathetic manner that clearly demonstrates an understanding of the challenges whilst also projecting confidence about recovering from the crisis.
Learning to lead through a crisis like covid-19 will require people to step up in their roles and lead others through unsettling and uncertain times. What’s more important now than ever is to navigate this unchartered territory together even when we are unsure, feel discouraged, lonely or there’s fear of what may come. It’s times like these that will bring many leaders to the fore who will lead their organisations by planning for future contingencies, what may likely happen while also addressing the current needs, what must happen now in the present.
What organisations need now is resiliency in a time of crisis by acknowledging the problems and uniting everyone in a common effort to fight this together. Unprecedented times require leaders to make tough choices, decide without clarity and complete information and provide a plan to their employees even when they know it will change.
Leading others through uncertain times firstly requires Leaders to Lead themselves effectively. For, you cannot Lead others unless you Lead yourself. This requires Leaders to manage their energy well by taking good care of their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, and thus setting a good example to others.3
Following behaviors and steps can help while leading others when navigating a crisis:
- Empathy – Acknowledge other’s stress, personal/family issues and show that you care. Importantly, be visible, present and available to your people. Balance empathy with execution
- Confidence – Stay calm, clear and confident. Inspire confidence in others “ we will get through this together”. Maintain a growth vs a fixed/fear mindset
- Communication – Communicate effectively with clarity, authenticity and regularity. It is the Leader’s job to provide clarity and direction amidst all the chaos
- Resilience – Show that you have the ability to bounce back from setbacks and obstacles. Take care of your energy, wellness, fitness, thus setting an example for others to take care of themselves. Reframe how you think and use the power of positivity
- Courage – Take bold, tough decisions on purpose vs. reactive / fear-based decisions
- Inspiring – Remind people why we exist. Rally people around the Company’s purpose and leverage it to serve customers in new and meaningful ways
- Balance – the need to pause (being reflective) with the need for action (being action-oriented)
- Focus and prioritization – be clear on the important vs urgent efforts that will bring maximum results
- Looking ahead – Apart from the continuity of business, consider multiple future scenarios and how well you are prepared
Ratan Tata said that “crisis is the greatest text book of Leadership”. Adversity is indeed an opportunity for Leaders to learn, grow and bring out the best in them.
Are you taking responsibility and leading through a crisis like the pandemic or only managing its response?Coaching Can Help You Move from Crisis Management to Crisis Leadership.
Sooner or later all organizations go through a crisis experience. When these situations arise, leaders naturally shift into planned or ad hoc behaviors that usually involve securing assets, making sure employees are taken care of, reviewing supply chains, and revising financial projections. They might think of messaging their clients, customers, and vendors. They may conduct scenario planning.
All these actions constitute what is traditionally considered effective crisis management, the process by which an organization deals with a disruptive and unexpected event that threatens to harm the organization or its stakeholders.
But, crisis situations can also lead to innovation, opportunities, and course corrections.This is where crisis leadership comes into play. Effective crisis leadership can reveal potential benefits in factors that at first glance seemed to present only disadvantages and distress. Leaders who recognize how chaos can change the rules come out of crises stronger and with a greater employee, customer, and community loyalty than they had before.
Another potential outcome of chaos is learning. A crisis is a unique way for leaders to examine their organizations’ actions and decide which behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs to bring into the future and which to leave behind.
As discussed earlier, there are specific skills that can enable individuals to provide leadership in times of crisis. These include Resilience, Clear communication, competence, calm, and empathy. Coaching is one way to develop these capabilities. Coaching can make a remarkable difference and enable new thinking.
Coaches help clients map the route to achieving their goals and producing favorable outcomes. A coach can work with an individual or team and help walk them through the natural states of fear and insecurity toward an openness to new possibilities. A professional coach is also trained to recognize whether additional support—trauma treatment, counseling, psychology—may also be necessary to lead through a crisis.
In times of crisis, it is easy to focus only on what’s happening right here, right now. With the assistance of a coach, organizational leaders can look further ahead and not only deal with the immediate emergency but also prepare for the coming changes.
Crisis leadership requires the capacity to anticipate what’s next and lay the groundwork to stay ahead of it. A coach can challenge assumptions and help leaders re-chart their organizations’ future. That makes professional coaching an essential investment in effective crisis leadership for today and tomorrow
( Content related to Coaching sourced from ICF – International Coaching Federation)