By- Jon Michail
Have you ever panicked in a crisis, be it a financial crisis like the 2008 global financial crisis or the current coronavirus outbreak? The answer is that most people probably have. The extensive and fear-inducing media coverage of crisis situations can sometimes break the willpower of even the strongest individuals, leaders or corporations and send them into panic mode.
This is where it’s critical to not fall into the trap of losing yourself in a leadership sense, instead inspiring others so they don’t fold like a pack of cards.
Andy Grove, former Intel CEO, said, “Bad companies are destroyed by crisis.” Companies that lack strong leaders and do not explore the opportunities that a crisis presents are the ones that suffer the most during a crisis, whereas the companies that become the new big players or sustain their market authority during a crisis usually have outstanding leaders and let these obstacles improve them rather than destroy them.
The question is, what can you do as a leader during a crisis that will not only dissuade others from going into panic mode but also develop your leadership and crisis management skills? Your actions will enhance your personal brand and reputation as a courageous, powerful and thoughtful leader who seizes onto the numerous opportunities a crisis offers.
1. Take a moment to figure out what’s actually happening and what are the roots of the problem.
Many companies suffer because individuals in executive and leadership roles do not investigate and get to the root of what’s causing a crisis and may take unqualified and emotional advice on the run. It’s never a wise move to make decisions in a hurry. Have you ever been guilty of not understanding a situation and making it worse with your unqualified decision-making?
Leonard Saffir, who served as executive vice president of PR firm Porter Novelli, said, “In crisis management, be quick with the facts, slow with the blame.”
An unqualified decision can cost individuals and corporations dearly and can also lead to a blame game and infighting, leading to a very toxic work environment that can create lasting damage. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for leaders to get to the bottom of what’s causing a crisis and come up with a well-thought-out plan to not only combat the crisis but also look for the opportunities that it presents.
2. As a leader, demonstrate control and communicate actively; don’t hide away from the challenges a crisis brings.
Many corporations crumble down in a crisis situation, be it in a financial sense or in some other challenging scenario, as the people in leadership and executive roles at times shy away from taking responsibility and/or accountability to stamp their authority and take control of the situation. In order to develop your leadership skills and become an influential leader who makes a powerful impact, you have to demonstrate a take-the-bull-by-the-horns attitude.
Moreover, it’s important that executives and leaders communicate actively, transparently and honestly to their team, clients and other stakeholders. This way you control the message being communicated and the chances for miscommunication-related issues are vastly reduced.
It is up to the individual whether they choose to be a leader who is making a real difference or are satisfied being a follower who just wants a safe exit for themselves during a time of crisis.
Do you believe that your actions during a crisis build or destroy your personal brand?
Your actions as a leader absolutely build and enhance your image, brand and reputation, both in the workplace and outside. Currently, in a hyper-competitive business world, your brand must make you stand out as an authentic and courageous leader who has the conviction to make a sustainable difference to your team and organization.
As John F. Kennedy said, “In a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity.”
3. Be decisive and bold during a crisis.
In a crisis, it is of utmost importance that individuals in executive and other leadership roles are not intimidated by being creative or decisive or making bold decisions. When it comes to crises, usually being timid and indecisive results in disaster that could be very damaging to both individuals’ and organizations’ image, brand and reputation.
Have you ever been tempted to do something courageous by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone that’s been different from your normal behavior? Did that define you as a leader when it came to handling a crisis?
4. Remember as a leader that it’s okay to fail.
It’s important to understand that at times you could do everything in the best possible way and still fail. You can lead your company and your team extremely well but still fail to manage the things outside your control. I am sure many of you reading this have experienced such failures and questioned yourself as to what you could have done differently. The answer can also reveal that your failure was normal in the circumstances and these so-called failures were learning lessons in disguise that built bridges for your future success.
A crisis situation in any sector brings out the true leaders and separates the contenders from the pretenders — leaders who make a difference, contribute positively and not only are successful themselves but help people around them to become successful (or coach them how to tackle a crisis in a way that will not make them press the panic button).
Successful leaders are brave. Think about a time you stood out or struggled as a leader during a crisis, and do your best to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves during a crisis.
This article was first published in Forbes.