Leadership in Crisis

As I scroll through my social media feed, especially my Leadership focused platforms and groups; I notice a plethora of articles, posts, and workshops being offered about how to lead in a crisis, how to lead people remotely, how to be the Leader your team needs right now …

I can’t help but stop and wonder, how have we been leading before?

The elements of great leadership have not changed. They have not “pivoted”. They will always remain the same. These are just the times that it will become glaringly apparent to your team, to your organization, and to yourself if you’ve been living in that truth already. If you suddenly feel like you have to take a course on how to lead in a crisis, you might want to stop and think about YOUR fundamental leadership values, and if you are in alignment. 

Leading through a crisis will take MORE: more direction, more clarity, more communication, more connection; but it does not take a myriad of new leadership skills. If you have been intentionally leading up to a crisis; you will have a firm foundation, you’ve built the right culture, and you have earned a trusting relationship with your team. Your team already knows how to respond (whether working remotely or not). They know how to stand as a unified front, they know what you expect of them, they know what they’re made of, they know how to show up, and they already know if they can count on you or not.

This is critical. Because crisis is the time that you as a leader have to react swiftly, you have to make decisions in real time (and usually with incomplete information), you’re going to ask more of your team, you’re going to have to ask them to do things differently, to do things they don’t necessarily want to do, it’s going to be hard on them, they will be confused and full of fear and doubt and stress.

If you’ve already built a solid foundation and a winning culture; your team will trust your decisions and your direction. They will know that you have their back, they will trust you and your intentions; they will rise. They’re going to show up with grit and determination and with strong character and take the challenges head on.

It’s not about becoming a different leader or using different tactics; it’s about amplifying the skills you’ve already honed, it’s about giving a little more, it’s about connecting and caring in every interaction. 

This is the time where Leaders are revealed, not when they’re MADE. If you are relying on a crisis to “make you”, I have to question your intentions during the “normal” times.

So the real question is not how you lead in a crisis, it’s how did you lead before the crisis? Did you live and act within your values? Did you care? Did you connect? Did you make your team feel like they mattered? Did you actively listen? Did you communicate clear expectations? Did you manage to those expectations? Did you challenge your team to grow beyond their beliefs? Were you empathetic? Were YOU someone that you would follow?

It’s not about how you lead in a crisis, it’s about how you lead. Period. 

November 9, 2023


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