Particularly during a crisis, the ability to genuinely and effectively empathize with the people affected can make all the difference regarding whether a leader will succeed or fail. Never before have leaders been under such intense scrutiny from their stakeholders aimed at assessing whether they demonstrate the care, authenticity, purpose, and values that organizations profess to subscribe to.
Our recent research has found that inspiring and transformational leaders during times of crisis tend to seek out and act on the counsel or advice of others. They also have a team of advisors that can offer as many perspectives as possible on their situation be it organizational or leadership challenges. The best practices adopted by these leaders include asking themselves the following questions:
- “Do I have access to diverse voices and sources of information?” : They adopt scenario-planning to determine whose knowledge or expertise you might need in various kinds of crises and identify whether their organization currently has access to it.
- “Do I routinely consider other team members’ ideas or feedback when making decisions?” : They sought out expertise to fill their blind spots and make informed decisions. Effective crisis leaders are those who know when—and how—to defer to others.
- “What systems or processes might I put into place to surface and capture others’ perspectives?” : They look at how communication is structured within their organization and whether there are barriers or silos that they need to proactively address.
RESILIENCE: During times of crisis, leaders need to be calm and sustain their energy levels under pressure, to cope with and adapt to disruptive changes. They bounce back from setbacks. They also overcome major difficulties without engaging in dysfunctional behavior or harming others. Resilient leaders are genuinely, sincerely empathetic, walking Compassionately in the shoes of employees, customers, and their broader ecosystems.
The well-being and resilience of self and others are more important now than ever before. Role modeling around well-being will be important for leadership success as well as the need for clear messaging on psychological first aid, well-being, and mental health from the business.
INTELLIGENCE: In times of crisis, business intelligence is an area that leaders can leverage successfully when revenues are decreasing and budget problems come into play. By leveraging business intelligence and big data analytics, leaders will be able to discover things that are not obvious or that they didn’t know, such as the root cause of those revenue drops and how they affect specific levers within their organization.
SHIFT MENTAL MODEL: In a crisis, leaders are compelled to try to implement measures that they have never attempted before. When a leader adopts a growth mindset in a crisis, the path to change tends to be less arduous as individuals with a growth mindset believe their talents and abilities are developed through self-development and practice. They are open to new ideas and learning and see failures as opportunities.
INSPIRING: During crises, leaders need to demonstrate inspirational and transformational leadership styles. Trust is more valuable than ever during times of crisis because it not only promotes resilience in the face of uncertainty but also provides solid ground for action and results in better financial performance. When leaders and organizations are centered on an authentic purpose, employees feel that their work has meaning. Research shows that employees who feel a greater sense of connection are far more likely to ride out volatility and be available to help companies recover and grow when stability returns.
SET THE GROWTH PATH: One of the biggest questions employees have asked their leaders during the current pandemic is when this coronavirus madness will end so that they can get back to normal or business as usual. The reality is that it is going to be business as unusual. To prepare for the “new normal” or the “next normal,” leaders need to answer the question “what can I do now to prepare for when things return to a new normal?” To achieve this, they need to reflect on what has happened and what lessons they have learned and then plan to start with a new vision.
They need to connect the conversation about why they and the leadership team are embarking on preparing the organization for the future, what the outcomes are likely to be, and how to go about it. Leaders need to stay firmly grounded in questions like “what’s our goal here? What does success look like for us?” Leaders need to build a culture of accountability, foresight, a “people-first ahead of process and technology” mantra, and decisive adaptability.
For many organizations, this means asking their workforce to work from home. If you are preparing for increased remote work, ensure that the organization has in place the right technology and the technical capacity to support it, including bandwidth, VPN infrastructure, authentication, access control mechanisms, and cybersecurity tools that can support peak traffic demands. Many leaders have confessed that their organizations were not ready for this!