Leading in a Crisis

Photo of Australian Fires

Photo of Australian FiresToday’s blog is from Australian contributor, Dr. Tom Verghese. Tom is Principal and Founder of Cultural Synergies. His work helps organizations perform at optimal levels, improving cross-border staff engagement, communication, and relationships.

Welcome to 2020—a whole new decade! I hope this finds you well and focused on your goals for the year ahead.

Being located in Australia, it has been impossible not to be affected by the situation currently occurring before my eyes. As many of you may know, Australia has been experiencing one of the worst fire seasons on record. The sheer scale and devastation brought on by the fires to the environment, people and animals has been beyond comprehension. This crisis has highlighted the ways in which, despite the obvious negatives of the situation, there have also been a number of positives, in terms of the way the community has responded and come together to help each other. This has happened not just at a local level but at a global level. It is interesting to observe the range of behaviours displayed by the various leaders at federal, state and local government levels. The situation encouraged me to reflect on the importance of leadership when managing a crisis. Here are some key traits that I view as critical to leading well in crisis, at both a professional and personal level. 

  1. Calmness—Being calm, logical and having a strong disposition is perhaps one of the most important factors when leading through a crisis. It is imperative to ensure that panic is minimised despite the stress of the situation. People take their cues from leaders so how we “show up” is important.
  2. Trusted AdvisorsHaving trusted advisors who you can rely on to provide information and advice to inform your decision making and its process is essential. This may comprise field experts, specialists and employees. There will be a diversity of views that these people can offer. As a leader the task will be to process the opinions and make informed choices. Of course, not all of these will go according to plan.
  3. Communication—Better to be over communicating and micro-messaging rather than people making up their own stories.
  4. Being healthy, fit and up to the job—With the levels of stress involved in leading through crisis, it is so important to take care of yourself through regular sleep, exercise and healthy eating.
  5. Inner work/ Spirituality/ Prayer—Having a practice that grounds you and you can retreat to, to provide inner stillness and calm is also highly beneficial when dealing with crises.

It is inevitable that at some point in our lives we are all going to encounter difficult and challenging situations. By being aware of what some of the ways to cope with leading in crisis are, you can incorporate some of these elements into your everyday leadership.