January 12, 2021 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
After months of dealing with the pandemic, many leaders in a myriad of industries have been forced to lead their teams through one type of crisis or another. And while there have been an unprecedented number of crises recently, the reality is that even without a pandemic, crises are bound to happen. Whether a natural event, health, financial, or technology crisis, leaders are bound to find themselves facing a crisis from time to time.
One key factor for determining how well organizations fare during a crisis is the company’s leadership. The best leaders are able to get their organizations through challenging times and even come out of them stronger than ever.
While this is not an easy thing to do, the encouraging news is that there are some specific traits, skills, and habits that determine how effective a leader will be during a crisis. Working to develop these skills can help to ensure that you’re prepared and equipped to lead your team through any challenges that arise.
Gather as much credible information as possible
When an issue arises, the first thing leaders should do is understand exactly what they’re facing. It can be tempting, when an emergency arises, to start reacting before you have complete and accurate information. Avoid that temptation and instead gather all available, reliable information as quickly as possible so that you’re able to properly assess the situation.
Create a plan and act on it
While gathering information is important, it’s equally important to not become so bogged down that you don’t act in a timely manner. During a crisis, leaders should quickly gather and process information, prioritize issues, and make a decisive plan of action.
Paralysis by analysis is a common mistake that leaders make during a crisis, and it’s an important mistake to avoid. Remind yourself that you don’t have to get things exactly right, but taking action is important. Doing so will help give your team confidence that you are in charge, things are under control and that your business is proactively addressing issues that arise.
Communicate and be transparent
Having good channels of communication is always an important part of a healthy culture, but this is especially true during times of adversity. The best leaders communicate clearly, concisely and in a timely manner throughout crises. And in these communications, it’s important to be as transparent as possible. Sharing all the information that you have will help to reduce your team’s fears of the unknown, give them some guidance on how your organization will be addressing challenges, and will instill trust in you as their leader.
Keep in mind that it’s important to be thoughtful about how and when information is shared. Ideally, you should do it face-to face, even if virtually, and more than once. Consistently communicating with your team and sharing all information with them is a critical part of leading them through difficult challenges.
Crises are often ever-changing. In order to effectively lead your team through one, it’s important to constantly adapt and adjust. Part of doing this well involves seeking out information and input from as many different people with diverse perspectives as possible. In many situations, it also means being creative and thinking about unusual solutions.
Experience has shown that leaders that are willing to adapt, seek expertise, and think outside of the box are more effective at leading teams through times of crisis.
Make yourself available
A key role of leaders during crises is supporting their team, letting them know that the organization is facing challenges head on, and instilling confidence that the team can overcome whatever challenge it’s facing.
One way to support your team is by being available during hard times. When crises emerge, it can be tempting to hide away and bury yourself in the many tasks in front of you. However, the best leaders resist that temptation and go out of their way to be accessible, visible, and there for their team.
Ideally, this would involve being present and regularly checking in informally with employees. However, if you can’t be physically present, make sure that you repeatedly let your team know you are available and how they can contact you with any questions, concerns or issues.
Display self-control and confidence
It can be hard to exude confidence in a crisis. As a leader, you’re stressed, exhausted, concerned and generally overwhelmed. While those are all natural reactions, it’s important to control those emotions and to stay calm and focused. It can take great self-control to not look frazzled, panicked, or emotional during hard times. While it’s okay to show some emotion, you set the tone for your team. You want them to be focused, forward-looking, and committed to successfully overcoming any challenges that you face. With that in mind, it’s key to have control over your emotions and to display confidence.
All leaders will face a crisis at one time or another, and there are some specific actions and traits that leaders can develop to make them more effective during these times. Leading during a crisis is hard, but having a plan in place does help.
Being able to lead no matter what challenges you face is an important part of determining both your success and your company’s long-term success. Whether you’re currently facing a crisis or not, now is the time to begin building the skills sets to ensure you’re able to effectively lead your team through the next crisis that comes.