The Value of Leadership Emerging from a Crisis
For many executives, today’s crisis has no modern-day precedent. Leaders are facing extraordinary demands in their businesses. The sheer unpredictability of this emergency has made it challenging for the most exceptional executives, and requires a specific leadership style to emerge through it with limited disturbance to clients, employees, and the company. Crisis leadership begins with a clear vision and the ability to mount a response.
How Does Leadership Change During a Crisis?
Leaders are crisis management experts. During a crisis, conventional responses fall short of what is expected and required. In these situations, a new form of leadership is necessary — crisis leadership. Executives who understand this need and can actualize a plan forward provide the structure for making a difference in the extent to which people are affected by the situation. The demand for a leader in these situations requires unique abilities.
Managing vs. Leading
Crisis leadership involves more than managing corporate communications and public relations. While these activities are vitally important, this is only a small part of leading an organization through troubled waters. Crisis leadership requires building a foundation of trust both within the organization, as well as with the community.
By building these foundations, leadership prepares the organization for difficult times and leverages for organizational change, innovation, and progress. The mindset of a crisis-leader is characterized by openness to new opportunities, a willingness to take calculated risks, and a belief that people and institutions can effectively emerge through the emergency as stable, if not more so, than before the crisis began.
The Hallmarks of a Crisis Leadership Mindset
Undoubtedly, crisis leadership is a continuous process that adapts as the situation develops. A leader’s guidance during these times relies on developing a mindset for reflecting, learning, and changing as necessary. Each of these demands requires them to promote quick and ethical decisions among their stakeholders and followers. Only then are leaders able to see and respond to opportunities amid a crisis.
The following hallmarks of a successful crisis leadership mindset mark the difference among those who will exit this time with a better vision & expanded opportunities for their organizations and those who will not.
Scanning the Environment
Crisis leaders must develop and foster their ability for environmental scanning. Examining information from multiple sources, integrating and aligning from a strategic & tactical standpoint, and encouraging discussion within their organization are requirements for broadening the overarching view. Additionally, fostering constructive dissent within the organization helps challenge the status quo and showcase new pathways to previously undiscovered possibilities.
Acknowledging Fear Through Empathy
As a leader in today’s business environment, honesty is a requirement. Instead of tapping into positivism, crisis leaders lean in on realistic expectations and credible hope. Recognize that employees, stakeholders, and partners are anxious with concerns about health, finances, job security, and other personal matters. Acknowledge the fear in the room; deliver hope with confidence. Provide your roadmap to weathering the storm.
A dependable crisis leader recognizes that in times of adversity, the existing playbook of tried and true methods must be set-aside. They understand that these situations demand adjustment, improvisation, and pivoting as circumstances change, and new information emerges. The quick actions of today show in the results of tomorrow. Mistakes are bound to happen, but a good leader sees the value of a learning experience.
Elevating A New Leader within Team Network Systems
Amid crisis, senior executives may need to prepare to shift responsibilities and lose their command-and-control hierarchy to survive. Moving to a team network system is a solution that exceptional crisis leaders recognize. Granting authority without having to gain approval for smaller teams keeps organizations afloat. Leaders and executives must determine the architecture of decision-making during a crisis. Accountability must be clear, and it needs to be appropriate for associates at all levels.
Pausing, Aiming, then Acting
Executives and leaders often are praised for their ability to make decisions under pressure. While handling a crisis, this becomes a core competency. It’s likely for leaders to engage in sound decision-making when there’s abundant access to reliable information. However, in a crisis scenario — with time constraints, limited information, and uncertainty — it can stagnate the decision-making process.
For rapid decision-making to transfer to a crisis scenario, leaders must leave dysfunctional biases behind. Anchoring decisions based solely on limited information and making decisions to justify previous choices can cloud judgment, leading to failure. Leaders must attune to every environmental signal received and use such information to expedite the decision-making process. Crises are opportunities for organizational revitalization because they resurface neglected issues within the organizations. The only difference is now, leaders in crisis-mode must be more open to innovation and exploration.
Leveraging Transparency and Communication
Communications during a crisis often fall short of desired result expectations. Executives and leaders aim for an upbeat and overconfident tone for others to believe they’re successfully handling the situation. They also fall for the mistake of waiting for additional information to emerge and decisions to be final.
Frequent communication shows that leaders are closely following the situation. Transparency allows them to reassure stakeholders that while they might not be working from a step-by-step instruction manual, they are confronting the problems that they are facing. Encouraging communication among the crisis-response teams is also necessary. However, this communication shouldn’t stop once the crisis ends. Continuing to offer a realistic and transparent outlook has a powerful effect on those who follow and inspire employees, stakeholders, and others to support an organization’s recovery. Jeffrey Bartel, chairman and managing director of Hamptons Group, and Jordana Tobel, Founder at Premier Listings, have each explored the critical importance of leadership emerging from a crisis.
Leadership emerging from a crisis is undoubtedly a similar concept as a general leadership role. However, in times of crisis, this leadership is mandatory for navigating through the emergency and exiting successfully for future successes.