We are at a time of catastrophes. Last year, Malaysia alone was hit with three air disasters, not to mention those around the world, like the outbreak of ebola in West Africa, attacks in the Middle East, natural disasters of floods and major snow storms in the US & Europe, and the weakening conditions of developed economies. Not a single continent has been spared, not a single human concern not shaken – natural and man-made issues have all been blown up into epic proportions. And it continues with the most recent earthquake in Nepal.
How do people continue to hold out, amidst everything that the world is going through? How does one single effort make any difference to the world at large, one might wonder?
But that’s the power of Hope and Faith. And it is through these two powerful words that the world at large can come together in commonality, whether you are a believer in God, or a believer in humanity.
It is in times of adversity, that crisis management comes forefront. But how many of us are equipped to lead at such a time as this?
I like how Gordon Meriwhether, a retired Navy Captain and the Founder of The Uriah Group, a crisis leadership consultancy, summarised his Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® to crisis leadership, and I quote from his article Leadership in Crisis:
- “Model the Way”:
In his experience as a leader in business and the military, the quickest way to lose one’s leadership credentials is to not demonstrate balance in a crisis. Instead of calmly addressing a crisis at hand, the inadeqate crisis leader will lose control of his/her actions, temper, emotions, or awareness. In the Navy it’s called “losing the bubble”; not being aware of the tactical situation at sea can cost lives. Demonstrate balanced leadership.
- “Inspire a Shared Vision”:
It is critical in a crisis that we all share the same goal. We may have different reasons for the goal but we have a common goal. For example, the obvious goal is to return to normalcy. To employees this means ensuring that their job survives amidst worries about stopping the revenue loss. Return to normalcy.
- “Challenge the Process”:
The organizational processes are stressed in any crisis and may become dysfunctional. A leader in crisis must have the flexibility to adapt to the situation, regardless of the inherent processes of the organization. Flexibility to adapt.
- “Enable Others to Act”:
In a crisis, much more than in normal operations, effective partnerships are critical to the success. Simply put, partnerships save lives.
- “Encourage the Heart”:
Taking care of the response staff is not much different in a crisis as in normal operating situations. What is different is the stress the team is under and how fast this can change. A leader in crisis needs to be more aware of the physical, psychological, and mental condition of the team. An operative that has been controlling an evacuation for 12 hours straight may need time out to regroup. The leader must be aware and be responsive.”
He ends by saying that it is critical for a leader to be aware as the environment becomes dysfunctional, or begins to stabilize. There are a variety of methods to lead during a crisis, but I find that those listed above, coming from a man with military experience, can shed a new angle to how we can lead in the marketplace.
I want to bring another form of crisis to you as Leaders; the Economic Crisis. The media has flooded us with reports and data of different economic development and condition in many parts of the globe; US, Europe, Russia, China, Japan, Middle East, Africa and nearer to home; ASEAN. In recent weeks, there have been more caution and talks on economies generally slowing globally.
Many of us are familiar with Economic Crisis and the impact it brings to our Nations, Communities, Organizations and Families. However, as Leaders we are not typically trained and equipped for crisis management, and when it does hit us, we look to the very top of the management chain for direction and assurance; which at times may not even present the appropriate form of leadership.
I am taking the opportunity to append the following from John Maxwell, which I find extremely practical and highly effective. Personally, I have experienced 3 periods of crisis management in my career, and 2 was in the capacity as a Senior Management Leader.
My after-thought after reading the 7 principles was why was I not prepared nor developed to handle crisis as part of my leadership development? It would have still been challenging, but the casualty could have been less costly.
7 PRINCIPLES FOR HANDLING CRISIS
- Discover and define the real problem
As Max De Pree noted, “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” Leaders must wade into the mire in order to learn precisely what has happened and to make sense of current conditions.
- Act quickly
- Provide reassurance
The place to handle a crisis is not from behind a desk but in front of the people. A leader’s visible presence during times of crisis inspires confidence and gives others a sense of security. Certainly, the ability of leaders to control their own emotions is paramount during crisis. In addition, preparation is key. Obviously, some crises are completely unforeseeable. Still, organizations can drawn up strategy plans in anticipation of an emergency. Companies with an emergency plan in place are far better positioned to handle a sudden crisis than those in which the leaders must operate on the fly.
- Simplify the situation
In times of crisis emotions run high and circumstances appear overwhelming. To make clear-headed decisions, a leader has to step back from events to determine the aspects of a situation that are beyond repair and to identify the main issues at stake moving forward. During a crisis, I make a point to withdraw from everything momentarily to list out my top concerns. I then assemble my core leadership team, gather their input, and amend the list accordingly. Putting the main issues on paper helps me to wrap my mind around the crisis and to stay focused amid chaos.
- Enlist support of influencers
In every organisation, a small group of people holds the majority of influence. During a crisis, devote extra attention to making sure key influencers are on board with your plan to handle the crisis.
- Decide to take action one step at a time
In crisis, conditions are in a state of flux. For this reason, plans extending too far into the future are doomed to failure. When confronting a rapidly changing situation, it’s wise to concentrate on the near-term. Focus on making the next step, let the dust settle, and then reevaluate the situation.
- Do what is right and not what is easiest
Difficult problems seldom have simple solutions. Refuse to cut corners or to lower your ethical standards to make the situation easier. Instead, hold to your convictions and put the needs of your people ahead of your personal comfort and convenience.
www.leadershipchallenge.com – Leadership in Crisis