Crisis and Leadership

“The words hope for the best and plan for the worst have never resonated with me so much as we have worked to navigate our international company through the ever-changing realities of COVID-19.”

These are uncertain times. I am not someone who likes uncertainty—and I ask many, many questions in order to gain clarity in any situation. I like to dig deeply into complex problems, clear the noise and make decisions. Yet during these times, there simply may not be answers.

So what do we do?

The way a leader behaves and acts during a crisis will uncover their ability to lead-period. It will uncover their willingness to take prudent and yet decisive action during a time when there is no manual. It will uncover their ability to calm the waters when others around them are panicking. It will demonstrate their ability to learn and rapidly course correct as circumstances indicate. It will show to others their innate character.

Don’t Allow Your Emotions To Get The Best Of You

In times of crisis, leaders invariably find themselves in the midst of a stressful and tense atmosphere. Now is the time to take charge of your thoughts, emotions and the way you deal with problems.

Remain Positive To Remain Productive

Positivity is the fuel for productivity. When the chips are down, you can choose to either get caught up in all the negativity surrounding you, or you can choose to do something positive about it. There’s always a choice.

Manage Expectations

When crisis strikes, people want to get over it as quickly as possible. As a leader, this is the time to face the situation and learn the magnitude of the problem. Let your staff know it might be a while until the storm passes and prepare them for the long and hard battle ahead.

Exercise Your Fearlessness

Fear is contagious and so is courage. If your demeanor reeks of fear, your employees will feel a greater sense of fear. You cannot afford to project yourself as someone who is not sure of his ability to lead or is short on confidence. Demonstrate the kind of courage that makes people want to follow you.

I have also found that the insights of Patrick Collison, founder of Stripe, to be especially helpful. In an article published by the Knowledge Project entitled Preserving our Optionality Collison wrote: “How do we prepare for a world that often changes drastically and rapidly? We can preserve our optionality. We don’t often get the advice to keep our options open. And we should. We live in a world that’s constantly changing, and if we can’t respond effectively to those changes, we become redundant, frustrated, and useless. Instead of focusing on becoming great at one thing, there is another, counterintuitive strategy that will get us further: preserving optionality. The more options we have, the better suited we are to deal with unpredictability and uncertainty. We can stay calm when others panic because we have choices.”

This rings so true for me, especially given the current times. Optionality means that we are always preparing for a variety of possible outcomes. We assume the next challenge is around the corner and we are constantly listening to diverse voices in order to be prepared. And we position ourselves to keep as many options open as possible. This optionality pathway cannot simply start during a crisis but must be a part of steady state. At the Fedcap Group, this has been one of our mantras: Diversity in programming results in diversity in options. So in this time of uncertainty, let’s find strategic ways to preserve our options. Let’s be smart, making decisions that can weather this storm. And in the meantime, breathe. I want to share a poem with you that has great meaning to me and when things seem overwhelming, I listen to it.