Leading and managing is not the same thing. This is true at any state of leadership but is especially evident during a crisis. Managers will delegate during a crisis and seek to establish order and perseverance to survive a tumultuous time. Order and survival are not bad goals for a leader to strive for. But they are mediocre. Making it through to the other side should not be the only objective in a crisis. A leader, through compassion and strategy, will understand the challenges that the company and its people are facing and be present and fighting on the front lines. A crisis is usually short lived but its implications, lessons learned, and reputation are often remembered for years to come.
Will you watch or will you act? Will you protect your people and stand by their side or will they exhaust themselves doing all of the work while you spectate in the background? To be the most impactful leader through a crisis remember that:
Your legacy is on the line
It may seem unfair but most once great leaders are remembered for their failures and not just their success. What you did wrong and how those wrongs hurt your team and your organization will have a lasting impact. Your ability to lead your organization and people through the tough times whether it be due to a pandemic, failing economy, or an internal corporate shake up, says much about your ability to lead and be trusted. You must prove that you are capable of leading through challenging times and know that your response will be tied to your legacy.
Your team is watching
If you are an efficient and mindful leader you are developing other leaders. Your team, especially those on the rise are watching and learning the steps and actions that you take in a crisis. In a perfect world they will recognize your mistakes and learn from them. But there is no perfect world. All eyes are on you and your team may repeat any poor decisions you make if they are not taught differently. Or worse, they will recognize your mistakes and lose trust and distance themselves from you all together. Maintaining loyalty and a strong work culture through difficult times is a necessity but your trust must be earned. What will your team see and what conclusions will they draw from watching you?
People over dollars
Greed will stronghold any leader and organization. Greed is not a well hidden secret. When a leader prioritizes profit and revenue over ethics, people, and morals people will notice. Change, especially negative change will often shake up production, products, and customer interest. Your organization more than likely will see a slump in sales and revenue when hard times hit. Strategize to overcome it. But you must overcome it ethically with poise and grace and not at the expense of your people, customers, or the community. If your solution to deal with a financial slump involves unfairly hiking prices, decreasing the value of your product, slashing the salaries and benefits of your team, or any form of deception to the public you don’t have a solution, you have a nightmare. Your organization will be remembered for how you treat others. Prioritizing people over profit should be a core principle of your organization.
When crisis strikes do you make it a learning experience? I sure do. Every failure and bad judgement call is ingrained in my mind. I refuse to make the same mistake twice. I want to encourage you to take it a step further and work with your team to safeguard your organization. With your team, develop methods to protect your organization. After all, isn’t the goal for your organization to outlive you and still function in your absence? If you want longevity you and your team must become change agents. Change agents for your organization and the community that you serve. Finding a cause that you believe is worth fighting for and supporting will help your organization make a mark on humanity. Finding solutions for challenges during a crisis will cause a positive change in your workplace, hopefully one that is recorded and passed down through other leaders and change agents.
Be proactive versus reactive. Be diligent. Be calm. Be sincere. Be hopeful. Be bold. Resist fear. Challenges will arise but you got this. You are capable! Your team is capable. Push through in unity and make every learning curve and adaptation become a learning moment and footstep to your collective success.