Leadership in Times of Crisis

I am sure many of you have read many articles about Leadership. However it still strikes me that on a daily basis I still see lack of Leadership skills which in a time of Crisis like this are so much needed. Some have asked me about what type of Leadership should one adopt in times of Crisis. My answer has always been that there are some minor differences, but by and large it is just a case of MORE leadership. What do I mean?

Decide with speed over precision.
In times of crisis the situation is changing by the day — even by the hour. The best leaders quickly process available information, rapidly determine what matters most, and make decisions with conviction. During a crisis, information is incomplete, interests and priorities may clash, and emotions and anxieties run high. Leaders must break through the inertia by focusing on the few things that matter most as rapid decision-making is critical. Thus it is critical to define priorities. Identify and communicate the three to five most important ones. Document the issues identified, ensure that leadership is fully aligned with them, and make course corrections as events unfold.
Make smart trade-offs. What conflicts might arise among the priorities you have outlined? Between the urgent and the important? Between survival today and success tomorrow? Name the decision makers. Empower your people and especially your front liners to make decisions where possible, and clearly state what needs to be escalated, by when, and to whom. Your default should be to push decisions downward, not up, as time is a resource you just don’t have.

Adapt Quickly
Strong leaders get ahead of changing circumstances. They seek input and information from diverse sources, are not afraid to admit what they don’t know, and bring in outside expertise when needed. Decide what not to do. Put a hold on large initiatives and expenses, and ruthlessly prioritise. Most importantly throw out yesterday’s playbook. The actions that previously drove results may no longer be relevant. The best leaders adjust quickly and develop new plans of attack. This is a crisis the world has never seen like since World War 2!

Monitor Closely
The best leaders take personal ownership in a crisis, even though many challenges and factors lie outside their control. They align team focus, establish new metrics to monitor performance, and create a culture of accountability.Stay alert to and aligned on a daily dashboard of priorities. Leaders should succinctly document their top five priorities (on half a page or less) and ensure that those above them are in accord. Review performance against those items frequently — if not daily, perhaps weekly. Review and update your “hit list” at the end of each day or week. Set KPIs and other metrics to measure performance. Choose three to five metrics that matter most for the week and make sure you get updated on each every week. You cannot however do this if you are not able to get the most updated and reliable information as quickly as needed. I am personally tired of meeting CEOs and Managing Directors, even in this present day, making decisions on information and performance metrics of some 6 months ago. 6 months ago the world was a different place!

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
In times of crisis, no job is more important than taking care of your team. Effective leaders are understanding of their team’s circumstances and distractions, but they find ways to engage and motivate, clearly and thoroughly communicating important new goals and information. This point deserves extra attention, because although the COVID-19 pandemic is, of course, a health crisis, it has sparked a financial crisis as well. Connect with individual team members. Reach out daily for a “pulse check”. Relate on a personal level first, and then focus on work.Dig deep to engage your teams. When communication breaks down and leaders act without team input, as can more easily happen when work is remote, they get subpar results.Ask for help as needed. The best leaders know they can’t do everything themselves. Identify team structures and assign individuals to support key efforts. Lead with empathy and a focus on safety and health. Compassion goes a long way during turbulent times.

Moments of crisis reveal a great deal about leaders and who you are. Make sure to use this opportunity to become a better leader. I invite you to spend just 5 minutes to view this extremely inspiring and useful video about Leadership in Crisis:

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