Leaders are supposed to bring order out of chaos, peace where there is strife, direction where there is confusion, calmness where there is storm and progress where there is retrogression. It is for this reason that leaders are regarded as agents of change.
As per observations, anyone can steer the ship when the sea is calm but it takes a leader to steer the ship through a tumultuous sea. In times of crisis, great leaders don’t focus on the challenges it springs or the restrictions and pains it foists on them, rather they focus on the opportunity it offers to make a difference and create an impact. Leaders live up to their bidding and calling when they rise above the situation to bring order out of the chaos orchestrated by a crisis.
The real test of leadership doesn’t happen when everything is going great. Or maybe, leadership is regularly tried during a crisis. The manner in which a leader acts during a crisis will build up their credentials as a great leader.
Very often, the unpredictable nature of crises means that leaders have no time to prepare. Additionally, there’s no telling how long a crisis will take to blow over. The time period can range from a day or two to over a few years.
Leading Through Crisis Involves Doing the Following
1) Seek Knowledge About the Crisis
Nobody can deal with crisis until he/she has adequate information about the emergency. It has been said that information is power. This is so in light of the fact that information empowers the leader to find a way to shorten or contain a crisis. The more you think about an emergency, the better prepared you will be to tame it chart a way out of it
2) Elevate Your Thinking
According to Albert Einstein, the primary requirement for solving a problem is to change the way we think about it. If a leader sees a situation as being beyond solution, the brain shuts down and is unable to fathom a way out of the cul-de-sac. But if on the other hand, the leader believes that he is able to come up with a solution to the problem, a message is sent to the brain and it does not rest until a solution is found. This is why man has been able to find solutions to many problems over the years.
3) Be Amenable to Change
A crisis is a call for change. A crisis is a demand to replace an existing order with a new one. Whenever there is a crisis, the underlining message is change. Many people and organisations are destroyed during a crisis because they resist change. In time of crisis, it is best to be flexible. It is only companies that are amenable to changes that thrive in crisis; those that are rigid and want to continue with the old order are either swept away by crisis or miniaturized by it.
Although change is said to be the only thing that is constant, many leaders fail to change when they ought to. But change, like water, always finds its path; those who refuse to toe its path live to regret it later.
4) Do Not Ignore Any Threat
Different people react to the threats a crisis brings in different ways. While some respond swiftly to it and consequently mitigate its effect, others ignore the threat or delay their reaction to it until the threat becomes uncontrollable.
Threats are warning signs that call for immediate action. However, the normal human reaction to a threat is usually to downplay it and operate on the premise that while others may become casualty of the threat, they would be protected from such. It is this phantom belief that results in delay in acting against the threat and exposing many to preventable danger.
5) Control the Chaos
In an immediate crisis, a work environment can very quickly devolve chaos because of all the emotions running high, with stress and fear being at the forefront. It is imperative for a leader to take control and stop the panic from spreading. In fact, this is often the first thing a leader has to do when news of a crisis breaks. This might involve quickly delegating tasks or simply bringing a room to order. Either way, it is only possible to begin a crisis action plan if everyone involved is focused and determined to complete the task on hand.
6) Take Immediate Action
Crisis time is not the time to vacillate and sit on the fence. It is not even time to build consensus, it is time to swing into action and take decisions based on available facts. As said by Theodore Roosevelt, former American president, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” In a time of crisis, delay is dangerous, you cannot afford to wait for the coast to clear before moving. So, based on the facts at your disposal, act and act fast.
A time of crisis is a time of uncertainty and confusion but the leader cannot come across to his people as confused or uncertain that is why he has to act fast. He must not only look decisive, he must act decisively. A time of crisis is not a time for indecision because indecision breeds languor and languor breeds weariness. A wearied team is easily overwhelmed and defeated. As put by George Canning, indecision and delays are the parents of failure.
Those who are undecided in times of crisis do so because of their fear of consequences of taking a decision. But indecision is not without its own consequences. As a matter of fact, the consequences of indecision outweigh that of being decisive. Those who are indecisive will have to live through the unpleasant consequences of the decision of others and that is the worst consequence ever.