Read this article to improve your crisis leadership skills
By Bright Dickson
Welcome to the new unnormal.
The national impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetimes. The coronavirus has disrupted the daily lives of millions of Americans. Not only have countless businesses, schools, places of worship and other institutions been forced to shut their doors, but the outbreak has also drastically changed the way countless Americans work, play, shop and socially interact.
To help business leaders navigate the many challenges of the days that lie ahead, I am sharing nine strategic crisis leadership ideas:
Crisis leadership idea 1: Be aware of your executive amplitude.
The term “executive amplitude” refers to the truth that, as a leader, your actions carry extra weight. Every hallway greeting, every email reply, and every facial expression during a team meeting are scrutinized closely. But during times of uncertainty or crisis, your actions carry even more weight, increased perhaps by a factor of five. Put another way: You’re on stage at all times—and you’re playing the leading role.
Crisis leadership idea 2: Provide authentic, realistic leadership.
During a crisis, employees want a leader they can relate to, believe in and trust. After all, their livelihood largely depends on your actions. They don’t expect you to suddenly change your character and morph into a superhero. Know, too, that you’ll fail to alleviate their fears by adopting a glib “don’t worry; it’s all good” attitude. Your employees and the leadership team around you need you to be your authentic, relatable self.
Crisis leadership idea 3: Convey compassion and intestinal fortitude.
When you communicate with employees in person, and via email, text or videoconference, your voice and tone should express appreciation, kindness and a sense of understanding regarding their circumstances. Most importantly, employees want to know that you care about them. But they also need steady reassurance that while the days ahead might be uncertain and troubling, you possess the necessary courage and stamina.
Crisis leadership idea 4: Stay centered.
Crises are crazy, stressful times for your employees. Some days it might seem to them as though Earth is poised to spin off its axis and tumble madly into space. When the stress seems overwhelming, you need to stop what you’re doing, mentally disengage and take a couple of breaths so you can fulfill your role of being like Gravity (yes, with a capital G) and pull people back to Earth in a gentle, understanding and positive manner.
Crisis leadership idea 5: Protect your own well-being.
Calamities are emotionally, mentally and physically difficult for an organization’s employees. Ditto for its leaders. It’s tempting to continually push yourself to your limit day after day, but we all know that’s not sustainable. And leaders who are exhausted or burnt out are more likely to make errors or bad decisions. There’s only one person who can take care of you.
Crisis leadership idea 6: Communicate early, and communicate often.
Employees need to hear regularly from you and your leadership team.
Some of them are struggling with new circumstances, and those who aren’t can still benefit from a steady stream of information, guidance and reassurance. That’s why it’s important that you regularly communicate with your team, department or organization.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States and many Truist teammates started to work from home, the leadership team sprang into action. They’ve been sending multiple emails per day. The information is useful, and the tone is always reassuring.
Crisis leadership idea 7: Add an extra measure of kindness.
Crises are a difficult time for your employees (and for yourself). It’s impossible to know fully know how a crisis is affecting employees, their families and others they care about. Adjust your behavior and expectations for the circumstances; don’t unleash your negative emotions or anxieties on employees. In situations like these, remember that everyone is fighting their own battle.
Crisis leadership idea 8: Create more leaders.
Strong leaders empower their employees to assume new responsibilities. This is especially true during times of crisis. Create opportunities for your employees to venture outside of their comfort zone and take on new duties. This enables employees become leaders at their own level.
Remember: You can’t do it all.
Crisis leadership idea 9: Constantly reevaluate your situation.
Your company’s circumstances can change from moment to moment during times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (also called VUCA). This shape-shifting situation demands that you regularly reevaluate your state of affairs and change course as needed. This pertains not only to the urgent tasks on your to-do list, but also to your business and employee relationships.
This too shall pass
Crises seem all-encompassing, but the reality is that eventually every crisis comes to a conclusion. By following these nine strategic ideas, you’ll increase your odds of making that conclusion a successful one.
Learn more about other leadership programs
Bright Dickson is a senior consultant at The BB&T Leadership Institute. She facilitates leadership development, with an expertise in connecting individuals, teams and organizations to strategies that help them achieve their potential.
Her previous articles include “Do You Understand Leadership Purpose?”
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