Leadership in a Crisis
Leaders spend about 90% of their time communicating. During a crisis, it is essential for a leader to communicate in a calm, clear and encouraging way. A leader must also be decisive, exhibit tenacity, and fan an ember hope into a flame of optimism in those they lead.
Leaders must be calm and show confidence in a crisis. They must take decisive steps. Implied in this is having the courage to make decisions with far less than perfect information.
Leaders dispel uncertainty through calm and confident actions. In a crisis, almost anything is better than indecision. People must have a sense that the leader is moving everyone forward through the storm.
Winston Churchill has been credited with saying, “When you find yourself in hell, keep going.”
When a leader remains calm, even the most frantic begin to get their feet underneath them. When one loses their head, matters simply get exponentially worse.
Leaders must communicate clearly in a crisis. Words have meaning. A leader must choose their words wisely and then query others to ensure what they said was understood the way it was meant to be. During a crisis, hyperbole generally creates chaos. In line with this, leaders must take responsibility.
President Harry Truman was famous for saying, “the buck stops here.”
There is something reassuring to know that the leader takes on the full responsibility for what occurs or what does not occur. When a leader clearly communicates that they are not fixing blame on anyone beyond themselves, it provides others the opportunity to move forward, understanding the leader has their back. This enhances initiative and creativity, two essential ingredients for solving problems.
The Power of Hope
A leader must also offer encouraging words during a crisis. History has shown that bad times, as bad as they are in the moment, do not last forever.
Colin Powell famously said that optimism is a force multiplier and he was spot on.
One of the most powerful emotions is hope. One of the most undermining feelings one can have is hopelessness.
It is incumbent on the leader to inspire hope in their followers.
General Grant, a famous Civil War General who went on to become our 18th President of the United States said, “In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten; then he who continues the attack wins”
A good leader uses encouraging words so everyone has hope, that no matter what the losses have been and what the odds are, they will eventually win.
Tough times don’t last but tough people do. In a crisis, followers look for the leader to be a rock and to be an anchor. That’s the key to leadership in a crisis.
By staying calm, communicating clearly, and encouraging those around him or her, a leader could steer the ship through a terrifying storm.
A leader must show empathy so those suffering at least feel understood, and a leader must demonstrate they care more for those they lead than they do for themselves, and isn’t that what leadership is all about?