4 Crisis-Tempering Leadership Qualities

The COVID-19 crisis has turned our world upside-down and is forcing us all to assess our personal and professional lives. In response, I found great comfort in re-reading a great book about leadership during crisis. The book: Endurance, Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing chronicles Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated trans-arctic expedition of 1914.
While reading about this expedition, I considered the incredible leadership qualities of not only Shackleton, but also of the many leaders with whom I have worked. Below are four leadership qualities vital for dealing with seemingly insurmountable crises.
1) Be Present and Available … Communicate!
The worst leaders disappear during crises. The reason? Fear. For most, they fear not having answers to solve whatever problem the team faces. Their fear of not appearing to be in control drives their decision to hunker down … to vanish. The best leaders get into the field (virtually, these days) to gather information, share ideas, and let people know they are present by:
• Contacting customers, patients, clients to let them know they’re available. They communicate creatively, fully taking advantage of telephones, Zoom meetings or FaceTime sessions. The current reality of social distancing isn’t an excuse to shut down interaction.
• Reaching out to employees, staff, colleagues. The constant exchange of ideas, strategies, next steps, (and concerns!) is both comforting and can lead to solutions.
2) Fuel Creativity with Optimism and Honesty:
Sugar-coating a tragedy is not the answer. Yet, the best leaders look for opportunities despite the barriers. Regular meetings with stakeholders (clients, employees, etc.) to assess only the challenges can be depressing. Leaders who can share even the smallest successes (perhaps derived from what they learned from getting into the field) build optimism, and optimism fuels creativity.
3) Embrace What They Can Control:
Instead of falling into the helpless victim-state and complaining about everything that has changed, great leaders maintain a laser-focus on factors they can control. Prime examples of this are the first two topics listed above (Communicate and Fuel Creativity).
4) Create Stability from Chaos:
Great leaders know the value of structure and predictability even when chaos reigns. From a personal resilience strategy of looking forward to their daily walk, cup of tea, or meditation session, they plan their day. Vitally important is to weave in some fun or recreation activities. And they encourage their employees to do the same. Bottom line: They take control and lead by example.