Leading in Crisis

Leadership is tough at the best of times….. but in 2020 our world leaders are being severely tested on multiple fronts, with the latest and most profound being the COVID-19 pandemic.

What does it take to lead with impact in times of crisis?

1. Cut through the clutter

Leaders need to understand, make sense of, and simplify the noise and mis-information into clear plans that help their teams navigate the turmoil. Converting the big issues into smaller chunks of tangible work helps the organisation rally together, regain control and keep calm. Clear prioritisation is critical, to keep everyone focused and empower decision making.

2. Keep an eye on the horizon

In the eye of the storm, many will fall into the trap of the ‘Superhero’, snapping into knee-jerk action mode, which creates frenzy and confusion. When decisions are made only considering the immediate crisis it materially impacts the long term viability of the business. Great leaders anticipate how the crisis will impact the forces shaping business and hunt for ‘crisis-born’ opportunities. Armed with invaluable foresight, they swiftly sense check these against their strategy and adapt the crisis plan.

3. Hold your team close

Leaders rely on others to deliver their vision and crisis situations only serve to magnify this dependence. Great leadership teams keep very close to each during crisis events. It is a place of safety and a vital source of knowledge and insight. Highly effective crisis leadership teams insist on meeting at least daily (virtually if required…) to monitor progress, resolve issues, and align on key messages. Through this tight cohesion, they remain one step ahead of the unfolding crisis, equipped to guide the business with clarity and conviction.

4. Inspire confidence

Teams will lose confidence and energy as the crisis prolongs, pressure mounts, and results inevitably lag the immense effort required. Leaders need to be constantly and visibly communicating with their teams – painting the big picture, reiterating common purpose, clarifying the plan and removing obstacles. Vitally important is to share progress, topping up their teams’ reserves by celebrating milestones and rewarding contributions.

5. Build depth

While resources are deployed to the ‘front line’ of the crisis, leaders need to be finding ways to build reinforcements. Crises offer great opportunities to extend talent and cross-pollinate skills. The urgency of the situation creates temporary project structures that steady state organisational designs don’t accommodate and encourages leaders to take resourcing risks they normally would not, providing rich development opportunities. Leaders must be bold and seize these opportunities to build bench strength and resilience.

6. Think eco-system

Crises often draw us inwards. As we administer emergency care to our hemorrhaging business, we tend to forget that we operate in a much wider eco-system. Customers, suppliers, partners, communities, employees and legislators are vital organs of business that deserve attention. Regular and transparent communication with these stakeholders is key to engendering their support and creating opportunities to collaboratively problem solve.

7. Take personal care

The job of leadership is one of service – to the business, its people, and stakeholders – but leaders must remember to also take care of themselves. Success in crisis is a team effort, but the leader plays a fundamentally pivotal role as the mission curator and guide. Leaders owe it to themselves, and their teams, to ensure they are fit to lead well, whilst ensuring there is a robust succession plan in place.

At Olakira, we are privileged to work hand in hand with executive teams around the world, sharing in their good and bad times, enabling them to always lead effectively no matter the circumstances. As experienced C-suite executives ourselves, we bring deep personal experience and practical toolkits to help executives to lead with impact.

If we can be of any support to and your business during this especially trying time, please contact us. Whilst we love working in person with our clients, we are also seasoned virtual facilitators, coaches and thought partners

For further information or support, please feel free to email us or make use of our contact us form..

4 Responses

    1. Hi Cagatay. Thank-you for your comments. I hope it is helpful to you as you navigate the Covid-19 pandemic – what a strange, difficult and far reaching crisis this is.

  1. Great advice for leadership. But how do we do this while having to support our children with their schooling, get used to completely new personal routines, cope with the effects of panic buying, etc. The merging of the personal and the professional just got a lot more complicated!

    1. Excellent question – and one is on all of our minds. This will demand of us complete paradigm shifts in the way we work. Keep reading as we’re working on an article addressing some of these challenges — ‘Leading in Isolation’ — how to keep leading in crisis when you’re physically separated from your teams and businesses. In many respects we are all learning while doing in this space…..so your thoughts, advice and experience when this is published will surely be of value to others. All the best to you as you juggle the realities the COVID-19 crisis is presenting us with!

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