Angela prided herself on her collaborative style with her direct reports. She actively coached folks to improve, encouraged them to make decisions autonomously whenever possible, and supported her people through tough times.That democratic style worked well, until the crisis struck.

Extreme circumstances – especially ones that are not anticipated – require a different type of leadership.

Years ago, John Barrett and I questioned seasoned leaders, asking them “What do you wish you’d known when you started out?” What resulted was a set of 50 DOs and corresponding DON’Ts, and these practical tips were published in the book 50 DOS for Everyday Leadership. Together, these “lessons learned the hard way” encourage behaviors such as listening, owning mistakes, seeking input before making decisions. These DOs help leaders:

  1. Build trust and credibility at work
  2. Get your people working together as a team
  3. Focus on what’s important
  4. Help your people get the work done
  5. Do what’s best for the organization
  6. Reduce misunderstandings and get people on the same page
  7. Continue to improve what you and your people are doing

Most of the DOs and DON’Ts apply in crisis. A few, however, need to shift. In the midst of abnormal, unstable and risky situations, there is a need to be strongly directive. Rather than being highly collaborative, leaders must filter out distractions and deliberately act in order to avert more bad outcomes.

After the crisis passes, however, the leader must again transition. They cannot hold onto a more commanding style.True, leaders must deal with urgent matters in crisis. However, those same behaviors don’t enable longer-term strategic work, a focus on the most important/not urgent matters and innovation for greatness.

How do you move from crisis to normal ways of being?

  1. Recognize that some things may have permanently changed as a result of the crisis; adapt as needed.
  2. The crisis may have positive impacts, like higher amounts of creativity or a newfound sense of urgency and purpose; act now to keep the benefits in place.
  3. Seek feedback regularly from people at all levels of the organization; specifically ask if they are getting what they need now that the immediate crisis is over.
  4. Do an after-action review to identify the behaviors, processes or structures that may have contributed to the crisis; make necessary changes. Wrestle with your own role in the crisis, how you weathered the storm, and what people and the organization need from you now.

Who knows? That no-good, bad, horrible crisis might turn out to have been just what your leadership needed!

Have a strategy for rising strong in times of crisis? Comment below or message us.


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