Leadership during a crisis

A crisis is when effective leadership really shines through. How you handle a crisis can make a major difference how well you and your company are able to navigate troubled waters and how well you come out on the other side. Many people naturally want to withdraw in a crisis. They too are often afraid, fearful, and uncertain. That is normal, however you have to overcome these feelings and lead. Here’s how to do it.

  • Communicate
    This is key. Communicate early and often. Be honest and open about what you know and what you don’t know. It is fine to not the answer to everything. The key is to project confidence while showing genuine concern for people. Maintaining open lines of communication will go a long way to easing fears. In a crisis of any kind, people immediate being to worry about their safety—personal, financial, what have you. Address that first before speaking to common goals and alignment in dealing with the crisis. Remember, in a crisis a leader has to communicate to everyone at every level in the organization, from the janitor to the board. Do not leave anyone out. Everyone is in it together and you will need everyone working together if you will successfully survive the crisis.
  • Listen
    You will not have all the information you need, so listen. Often leadership goes into a command and control mode in a crisis and shut out information. You have to be willing hear uncomfortable and bad news, things you would prefer not to hear, but that are critical. While it is important for you to be listen to bottom up communication, it is equally important for you to judge what is important and what is critical. Urgent items must be acted on while important items can be delegated. Listen carefully and avoid the temptation to give equal weight or respond to everything you hear. Be willing to listen, prioritize, and delegate while you focus on the most critical items.
  • Adjust
    You will need to change course mid-stream. If you are communicating and listening, then information will be flowing. This is one of the reasons that open communication is so important. When you learn something new, you may have change your plan. Expect this to happen and do not worry about creating confusion. People will understand that change is necessary if you are keeping them informed and updated and clearly communicate your reasons.

During a time of crisis, staying out front is critical to driving the organization effectively through the challenges. Leadership is about opening the lines of communication throughout the organization and being willing to listen to critical information so you can adjust as needed. Much of what happens will be out of your control, yet it is fully within you control to manage the crisis by being open and honest.

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