Something we’ve all learned over the past several weeks is that during challenging times, leadership matters more than ever. I’ve had the good fortune of working with some amazing leaders over the past 20 years, and the one common denominator I’ve found is that they seem to be at their best during times of crisis.


The thing about a crisis is that you can’t really plan for them. That’s why these situations are referred to a crisis in the first place. Usually in a crisis most of your plans get entirely thrown out the window and you get to make it up as you go. The only thing certain that leaders can really plan for is uncertainly.


The other important factor during a crisis is a leader has everyone’s full attention. Just think about yourself and how you have hung onto every word and statement of certain leaders either in your business or in the world today. They definitely have your attention, right? This is the time when true leaders shine, and the pretenders make excuses.


Even though there is no plan for a crisis there are some key characteristics and strategies that you can employ to help work through even the most challenging times.


Experts refers to this key trait of a true leader as:


Response- Ability… the ability of a leader to respond effectively during times of crisis.


Let’s take a look at what some of those key characteristics and how you can start practicing them.


The first and probably the most important is to Stay calm. Have you ever noticed how certain people tend to fly off the handle and completely lose it when things don’t work out? This type of behavior only exacerbates the actual problem and puts you and your team at a disadvantage.


This inability to stay calm during a crisis only feeds into the negativity of the circumstances keeping their teams stuck in the situation, rather than thinking about outcomes and possibilities for actually working and solving the problem.


Leaders that have the ability to stay cool and calm during a crisis send a message to the entire team that if we stay focused and use our knowledge and resources we can find a way to deal with the current situation or in some circumstances mitigate the impact of the crisis.


How have you been showing up over the past several weeks? Would those around you say you’ve been able to remain relatively calm and allow your team to work the current problem?


The next important trait that effective leaders have during a crisis is that they stay inquisitive, Ask a Lot of Questions and avoid making assumptions. Often times in these types of situations the information we are being given falls into 1 of 3 categories.


  1. A little bit wrong
  2. A lot wrong
  3. Totally wrong


Leading during a crisis means paying attention to where you are receiving your information, asking a lot of questions and making sure that you are working from the best facts available at the time. In times of crisis you are often dealing with “best guess” scenarios so taking the time to dig into the facts and do your due diligence before making your decision is crucial if you want to give yourself a chance for the best possible outcomes.


Many leaders I’ve spoken with tend to start with worst case scenarios and then work backwards from there all the way to the best case. The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle so understanding the spectrum is helpful before you just jump into action.


Another strong characteristic of leadership in these times is Taking Ownership of the problem.

While the Leader may not have created the situation or had anything to do with why it’s happening, blaming others and making excuses isn’t a productive use of time and energy. True leaders take this opportunity to fix the problem rather than attempt to fix the blame.


The situation isn’t going to go away and resolve itself. By taking ownership of the problem a Leader can now commit people and resources to manage the situation and start the long hard process of finding solutions and coming out the other side.


The last point that seems to repeat itself historically is that times of great crisis are usually accompanied by times of Great Opportunity. No matter the current state of your business, there is some opportunity that is going to arise from all this. If you have remained calm and asked the right questions you can place yourself in the best position to pivot to those opportunities as they present themselves.


If you remember the mortgage meltdown of 2008 there were mass foreclosures and homes that weren’t worth what the current mortgage was on the house which made them almost impossible to sell. Many real estate professionals panicked and found themselves unable to conduct business in this environment.


A select group of Realtors learned the tough task of how to deal directly with Mortgage companies to sell their foreclosed homes. Many became foreclosure experts and offered services to mortgage companies to manage and maintain the vacant homes in order get them sold.


Other Realtors learned to negotiate short sales with bank which allowed owners to sell their homes for less than what was owed on them. This required creating workout sheets for bankers to use to get short sales approved and homes off the balance sheets. Many had to educate banks on their specific markets and the true cost of holding onto homes that aren’t worth what is owed on them. As a result, these realtors found a huge market that never existed until that situation.


Where are the opportunities in your business? What are the needs of your current clients and customers going to be as we enter the new normal? How are you preparing to pivot to meet those demands?


Our current situation is certainly challenging to even the most successful leaders in the world. But our current situation is temporary. At some point we will emerge from this crisis.


As a leader how would you grade yourself in Response- Ability


Have you stayed calm? Are you asking the right questions and then asking them again? Have you owned the situation? Are you ready to pivot to the new opportunities that will present themselves in the New Normal?

Thoughts for the week:

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.- John F Kennedy

The Edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. –Hunter S. Thompson

In time of crisis people want to know that you care, more than they care what you know. –Will Rogers

A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly.- Desmond Tutu

Cheers to you, your growth and most of all your health

One Quarter Turn at a Time