Leaders are People, Too —
People look to leaders for clarity and strength in good times and in bad times. But during a crisis, leaders are also called upon to show emotion and demonstrate humility. Basically, to be human.
We can acknowledge that the crisis is a challenge, that it’s hard, and that we may not have all the answers right away. We should be transparent in that the path ahead may be long and winding at best, full of potholes and roadblocks at worst, and that finding our way will be our main focus.
Vulnerability is one of the most human traits. And it’s OK to be vulnerable. We may make decisions quickly and then may have to pivot later, but we’re willing to get the information we need to make informed decisions. We may target one problem and cause others, but we can admit it’s a learning process that we are committed to. In our humanity and vulnerability, leadership involves seeking and assessing information, listening to what’s being said and then communicating decisions, directions and what we’ve learned along the way.
Crises are not managed in the Boardroom. In times of crisis, leaders should make it a point to connect with the team, the whole team — all levels of staff — to hear their perspective, invite them to share their ideas, and value their contributions. They are your eyes and ears on the ground, and their input and support is needed. Giving people the information and tools they need to address the crisis at hand, to get on board and take action in line with the vision is essential. But it’s not a one-way conversation. Listening and conversing about the concerns of all constituents of your organization is essential as what they say about you after it’s over could mean the difference in what happens next.
It can be lonely at the top, especially in times of crisis. But it doesn’t have to be if we know when to ask for help, acknowledge the challenge and engage others in facing it and overcoming it head on.