One of the things that many people struggle with in their pursuit of leadership is that leadership is situational. Something that works in one situation may not work in another, for example, democratic leadership. This is a style where you look to involve as many people as possible in the decision-making process to help drive engagement and commitment. Still, in times of emergency, it’s too slow and cumbersome and doesn’t allow for the right level of urgency. As leaders, we need to be able to adapt our styles, and we need to assess the situation and project the correct type of leadership to maximize our impact.
One of the toughest times to be a leader is during a crisis, and here are five qualities that you need to show to help your people through the challenge.
This one is critical. You not only need to show a deep understanding of the problem but also of how it is impacting the people so that you know how they are feeling. The better you understand them and their concerns, the easier it will be to communicate in a way that will help them. As Stephen Covey says, ‘first seek to understand then to be understood.’ The more understanding you have, the more empathy and compassion you can show.
In times of crisis, the worst thing that can happen is that people panic, because panic can turn a bad situation into a full-blown catastrophe. You need to keep calm, keep them in solution mode, and the best way to do that is to present calmness yourself.It can be difficult, especially when things are really tough, but you have to demonstrate that inner resolve, you have to show that Churchillian backbone, and present an air of calm.
People need to believe that they will get through this and that they have chosen the right leader to guide them on this challenging journey. To give them confidence, you have to project confidence, and you have to show that you believe that success will be the outcome. You have to show that you have faith in the experts and people around you that are on the front line.Be wary of being over-confident as this can have the opposite effect and lead to a drop in their confidence in you.
Don’t sugar coat things. Be as open and honest as you can be. That doesn’t mean that everything needs to be shared, but it does mean that we shouldn’t deny what people can clearly see. If you don’t know, tell people that or say that things are still being evaluated. Do not fabricate information or deliberately mislead people.
People’s imaginations are often much worse than the reality, and sharing the truth can often be a blessing and help people better prepare for a long struggle.
In times of crisis, it is imperative that people are given clear direction, as ambiguity and crisis can be a fatal mix. Let them know what they need to do. Be clear, be concise, and be consistent. Remember, people don’t just listen to what you say; they also watch what you do, so you need to make sure that your words and actions are consistent. Anxiety is a combination of uncertainty and powerlessness, and by giving people direction, you potentially allow them to take action, which will help reduce it.
Leading in a time of crisis is one of a leader’s most significant challenges. If you can demonstrate understanding, calm, confidence, honesty, and direction, it will help you to help your teams, your organization, and your people come through successfully.