Leadership during Crisis
A crisis is inevitable. Uncertainty has become part of lives and businesses. The outside world is changing with the pace that was never there before. A business crisis arises when an unforeseen problem puts the stability of an organization at risk. Businesses might have the number and magnitude of plans for uncertainly, but those are not tested until an unfavorable situation occurs. These situations can arise due to organization changes, economic conditions, unpredicted technological alterations, political effects, or due to a widely spread pandemic like COVID-19.
The COVID-19 calamity has fueled what uncertainty means with renewed perceptions around readiness and preparedness of mitigation and crisis plans. This unprecedented situation has elevated the significance of leading with a whole new altered mindset. Business leaders across every industry are focused to keep their employees and customers safe, and their organizations afloat as they traverse through the coronavirus pandemic. Though there is no user manual out there to guide through a crisis, leaders should continue to transform, improvise, and refine their leadership styles and skills from time to time on how to lead differently in a unique situation.
There is an element of the leader’s deepest character that is revealed during highly charged, dramatic events. A crisis can quickly expose a leader’s hidden strengths and core weaknesses - Crisis Leadership, Gene Klann
A crisis can lead to a reduced workforce, lower revenues, lesser market demand, or remote working conditions. The policies, rules, and standard operating procedures may not hold and would require an upgrade basis of what situation demands. A situation may change within the matter of time based on broader decisions made across the organization, economy, or the government, but leaders need to continue to work on strategies that lead to balanced employee care and business output. To start with, leaders must ensure the physical and mental well-being of their workforce. The work environment around the employees may not be the same and it becomes critical for leaders to gauge and improve the well-being stamina of their workforce as they may encounter stress, anxiety, and uncertainty due to the circumstances. Virtual well-being programs, regular talks through video conferencing, and making them feel motivated can be of great help.
One of the core competencies of an effective leader is to communicate openly and act decisively when under pressure. Leaders must ensure they are aggregating the most precise information and share what is relevant with their people in all transparency and with empathy. Proposing solutions and clearly articulating the vision creates a stronger bond and trust between the organization and employees. When communicating, it’s equally important to listen to what employees have to say and allow them to offload the apprehensions and concerns they might have.
Leaders can’t let an uncertainty turn into paralysis. Though there is no easy route through the crisis, leaders must ensure there is an action plan created with strategic, visionary, and lateral thinking to steer the organization effectively out into the future. There will be a lot of unknown unknowns in the realm, but leaders have to make it simple by collaborating with different stakeholders for decision making, using a strategic mindset, demonstrating control and adapting to different situations. Keep in mind that smooth seas don’t make great sailors.
Multiple different lenses are needed to see through a crisis; it’s all about people, actions, decisions, and messaging. Be humble and don’t lose the human touch. Don’t stop the social connection with your people, show care over control, and adapt your behavior to bring out the best in them. Work on a dynamic action plan and communicate effectively to steer through the storm and make calculated decisions in the interest of the employees and the organization.