Leadership in Moments of Crisis
Leadership is an unforeseeable journey and leaders often have to navigate the tough wave. Nuances of leadership during tough times are different from that during good times. It is a leader’s responsibility to anticipate the future and plan for all possible risks by building the right system and talent capabilities.
Photo Credit : shutterstock,
Leadership is an unforeseeable journey and leaders often have to navigate the tough wave. Nuances of leadership during tough times are different from that during good times. It is a leader’s responsibility to anticipate the future and plan for all possible risks by building the right system and talent capabilities. They focus on building long term sustainable and virtuous environment. However, it is improbable to assume that there will never be any crisis. Shifts are constant in the external and internal environment and the human mind cannot anticipate the impact of all variables. These variabilities in the environment require leaders to be highly versatile. It is not wrong to say that a leader’s true might is more visible during tough times.
Leaders don’t let emotions get in the way. Crisis can be overwhelming. It can cause huge amount of stress. When years of hard work is at risk, or very strong belief systems and competencies that they went by is tested, it can cause stress that could quickly urn may convert into fear. A leader must always show courage during such times. If ever there is a time to be cool, calm, and collected it is during the tough times.
A leader needs to lead from the front and stand shoulder to shoulder with the team. During good times when businesses have tailwind a leader often plays from the edge and ensures the troops are well supported and enabled. But in times of a crisis, the leader needs to get into the field and show people the way. One must remember that crisis causes mind numbness and teams need to overcome that. This is the time when they look upto their leaders for guidance and direction. Their emotions mirror those of their leaders. It is also very important to for leaders to show hope and a way. Leaders need to break the daunting task into small bits and plan and mobilize the teams. Nothing energizes the troops more than getting into action mode. Moreover, achieving small milestones is a force multiplier that leads to bigger achievements.
A leader needs to be positive about the outcomes. A crisis situation may lead teams to dip on morale significantly. It is hence important for the leader to possess a positive attitude through the start and the end of the process. Leaders must assure the teams that they are with them irrespective of outcomes. They must inspire confidence to the team that there is a way out. Most often an answer is out there. A leader’s job is to get the machinery running as then work gains momentum.
A Leader must minimize the unknowns. Leaders must practice what is called the worst-case scenario. They must simulate the worst outcome possible and have a game plan of what to do should that happen. Doing a pre-mortem to identify what all can go wrong is also a good tool. It is very rare that any event will have the worst outcome and this approach gives a lot of stamina and perspective to the leaders. The trick is mitigating the impact of unknowns as human beings think better when they don’t have to deal with uncertainty.
A Leader needs to be prepared to switch gears. There are times things will not go as per plan. Leaders must know when to let go - partially or completely. At times it makes sense to let go of the situation and focus on other value adding projects. This is a tough one and is culturally dictated by how organizations view failures.
Leaders need to constantly communicate. There is no such thing as over-communication and even more so during crisis events. Sometimes this itself is what is required. Moreover, the form of communication makes a lot of difference. This should be done irrespective of the outcomes. Remember that teams respond to leaders that have built a strong connect. It is most important for leaders to demonstrate empathy and understanding in these communications. Genuinely knowing what the teams are going through and letting them know that you understand and that you are with them, makes all the difference.
Leaders need to create a culture where successes are celebrated, and failures are treated as learning forums. It is most important that insights are generated from these crisis situations and institutionalized in the organizations to avoid repeat occurrences. Tough situations are the biggest teachers in an organization journey and leaders must organizations that can not only withhold the shock effects that will happen occasionally, but also come out of it stronger.
By: Shefali Mohapatra, Chief People Officer, Atria Convergence Technologies Ltd.