Leadership Styles Management in crisis

Leadership Styles Management in Crisis

by Muralidharan Jayaram

Leadership in crisis

The world today is in an unprecedented crisis. It came upon all of us suddenly and has put a lot of nations across the globe in a health crisis. The impact of this crisis has touched almost all areas of our lives. Many countries have opted for lockdowns for social distancing which seems the only way to protect and save the lives of its citizens. The crisis seems to go on and on without any end in sight. The world, the lifestyle, and our work as we knew them and loved them before have drastically changed overnight without any warning. There is anxiety, fear, panic, confusion, and chaos everywhere.

Leadership Styles Management in crisis

In this article, I would like to explore with you what is our role as individuals and leaders. I do not know what role you are playing in life right now, but I do know that no matter who you are, you are a leader and that is true even if the only person you have to lead is yourself.

Leadership as never before has become extremely important. It is so important that the impact of poor leadership can result in putting the lives of people at risk and danger. One person’s poor leadership and a hence poor decision can prove to be a disaster for hundreds of people. The poor collective leadership of any community can bring down powerful nations to their knees.

This is a time for leadership and action and definitely not the time of incapacity and inaction. This is also a time for shared leadership across various levels of the Family, Society, Organization, Country and the world at large. A gigantic crisis cannot be tackled by a few leaders who are in positions of authority alone.

To begin with, you and everyone else has two roles that of a leader and that of a follower. Remember you are a leader and you have responsibilities which start from leading yourself first, then your family, friends, your employees, your society and every other person you come in contact with. Your effectiveness is crucial as a leader.

You are also a follower and you need to follow what your leaders are asking you to do, maybe your leader is your CEO or your Reporting Manager, or your President or Prime Minister or the head of your family or many of them put together.

What we need to remember is that you, I and everyone else have a role to play because a gigantic crisis cannot be tackled by a few leaders who are in positions of authority alone.

Let’s systematically examine leadership in a crisis. What kind of a leader do you have to be and what kind of things do you as an effective leader do?

Management styles leadership in crisis

What kind of leader do you have to be in this crisis?

  • You have to be a leader who has a high character. In this type of crisis where a leader’s experience is almost irrelevant as this is a new kind of crisis, the leader must have the character which will drive the leader to make the right decisions. In a crisis, a leader’s character is quickly revealed and it will have a huge impact on whether he or she will be trusted by followers.
  • For your character to come out in a positive and wholesome way as a leader, you have to be aligned to your true values which are further aligned to timeless principles.
  • You also have to align your vision to safely navigate this crisis with your overall vision of your family, company, your country, and the world at large.
  • You have to be visible and approachable. Your presence as a leader should be reassuring to your followers.
  • You have to be assertive as well as humble. Humble enough to know that you do not have all the answers and also you need the support of others too to be an effective leader while you are assertive in influencing your followers to the right course of actions they need to take along with you.
  • You have to be alert to the crisis and the situations around you. In a crisis of this magnitude, everything will change moment o moment and you as a leader would need to take actions based on the changing demands
  • You have to be a sincerely caring leader and you are empathic to the struggles of your people. Moreover, you have to be open to the empathy, affinity, understanding and the responsiveness of others too because you are human too and trust me, you need it too as a leader
  • You have to be an emotional Wi-Fi that emits calmness, steeled confidence and cautious optimism which is in tune with the reality. You have to realize that you as a leader is the emotional Wi Fi of your followers and the emotional well-being of your followers is dependent on you as a leader.

Characteristics Leadership

What do you need to do as an effective leader in this crisis?

  1. The first thing you need to do as an effective leader in this health crisis is to acknowledge the seriousness of the crisis no matter how scary it seems to be. As you can see many leaders were in denial and they put their people in jeopardy. You have to face reality and do not believe that everything is normal
  2. You have to control your emotional state. This is a moment where high EQ is needed along with your IQ. If you do not know how to control your emotional state then this is the best time to learn because your survival and your follower’s survival depends on it
  3. You have to take charge. Your followers need to be aware that you have taken charge as that will go a long way in reassuring them
  4. You have to quickly identify which is the credible source of information during this health crisis as things, events and the environment will be dynamic and changing rapidly. This is so important because you as a leader cannot rely on bogus information or rumors or even deliberate misinformation which if you act upon can lead to disaster not only for you and your followers but also to the country and the world at large
  5. You cannot wait till all the information and facts come home to you.
  6. You need to stay calm, pause and think, gather whatever facts are emerging, assess the situation, anticipate the impact the current turn of events will have on the future, create a quick strategy, create compelling goals and execute with speed knowing very well that the terrain and the situations are rapidly evolving in this health crisis. You have to be flexible to your strategy, goals, and actions but anchored to your values which are aligned to principles
  7. You have to have a fine balance for hoping for the best turn of events while anticipating for the worst always remembering it is better to err on the safe side when it comes to saving and protecting lives of your followers and yourself
  8. You need to prepare yourself to take impromptu actions that have never been taken before. This is not the time for analysis – paralysis
  9. While doing the above you also need to involve people as early as possible because you as a leader cannot take a hierarchical top-down decision which will work only in familiar exigencies. You have to take in the inputs, information, and suggestions of others while weighing them carefully
  10. While taking decisions and asking people to act you have to strike a fine balance between persuasive leadership and authoritarian leadership depending on how the crisis evolves. A command and control style may be necessary for some quarters where people are not complying with the decisions and actions asked of them. The wisdom to choose an appropriate style is crucial in such an enormous crisis
  11. You have to show that you care while maintaining an air of total control
  12. You have to take a crisis one day at a time and be alert to the changing situations and their impact on you, your followers and everything else. Your old way of working with scheduled meetings on your calendar has become redundant because you do not know what the next day will bring
  13. In a crisis, you need to understand that a combination of Transparent Communication along with visible action will build trust. Leaders who rely only on communication or only on visible action will fail to build trust
  14. You must shun negativity, negative people, negative images and videos, and all the stuff that floats around the media and you should encourage your people to do the same. Negativity can increase your breed fear, frustration, anxiety, and other negative emotions all leading to stress which can undermine your immune system and that of your people
  15. Continue to create compelling goals in the context of the crisis, share it with your people and focus on all the positive benefits ensuing from achieving those goals
  16. You must practice meditation and other stress-relieving techniques. It will be a good idea to reach out to experts who can help you in this regard. You must remember that as a leader, especially a CEO, you are lonely at the top and you may be called to take some very tough decisions which you may not like and are very stressful
  17. You must ensure that you have sufficient cash for survival. Right now in this crisis, your focus is primarily on that rather than earnings
  18. As a leader, you go first. You make the sacrifice first and be a role model to others
  19. Use this crisis and do not let it go for waste because people have been shaken up from their routines and the resistance for change will be less as they will readily understand the need for change, the urgency for change and will support and act along with you with full zeal
  20. The crisis has a lot to teach you. Learn for future use and encourage your people to learn too
  21. Don’t go “business as usual mode” Crisis is a time for a great opportunity. Be aggressive and seek new opportunities in terms of products and services. This is the time to re-look at your business model as there is a tremendous paradigm shift occurring. Those leaders who will strive to protect their business and stick to the old way of doing business will destroy their companies. Treat this as a time of great opportunity and be aggressive and seek new opportunities in terms of new business models, strategies and even products and services

Management leadership styles

What do you need to communicate as an effective leader in this crisis?

  • You cannot wait for all the facts to come to you before you can communicate. You have to communicate what you know and also communicate what you don’t know.
  • The communication mode should be rich – Face to Face or at the least virtual using state of the art tools
  • The communication must be through multiple delivery systems
  • First and foremost you have to sound to your people that there is a clear and present danger that is emerging because of the crisis and along with it the some of the action steps that are coming up as options that you will be taking to mitigate this danger.
  • In your communication, you have to project compassion and understanding while nudging them to hope that together this crisis can be and will be overcome
  • You will have to help your people understand clearly what this crisis means at all levels
  • You must realize that you cannot win trust by communication alone. You also have to communicate and make your actions visible
  • Regarding communication, you have to call spade a spade even though the information you are sharing may be scary. You have to do this by treating people as adults who can digest bad news and you should do this with an air of calmness and total control
  • While you are communicating you need to keep in mind that no one will be having the full information and they will be viewing the world through their own unique filters
  • Your explanation should be sincere and trustworthy.
  • You should balance negative with positive because people will not believe in the positive unless you tell them the negatives too
  • You need to clarify your expectations as a leader and offer your advice on what everyone should be doing in this crisis
  • You have to appeal to their higher collective values and ask people to look beyond their narrow selves to their families, friends, society, country and the world at large
  • Show utter empathy to the struggles and hardships ahead for everyone
  • Imbue hope that these hard times will soon fade away, in time
  • State and demonstrate that you and the leadership team are in control to the extent possible
  • In your communication, you have to project compassion and understanding while nudging them to hope that together this crisis can be and will be overcome
  • You should communicate the source of credible information through which you will be providing rolling updates
  • Some people will construct horrible realities and disseminate them through rumors. These should be squashed through constant communication
  • You need to constantly review your communication, repeat it again and again and reinforce it more ways than ever

If you want to listen to our podcast regarding this topic please click here

The Citrines Success Podcasts

Do subscribe to our blog and leave your comments here.

Share this article