Leadership is a privilege. But it also can be challenging, especially in a time of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. It is when we are in the crucible that true leadership is revealed.
The good news is, failure, crisis, and problems are opportunities for new beginnings. In the midst of all of the chaos, do not forget that opportunity is often brilliantly disguised as adversity.
Yes, a crisis is a dangerous opportunity, but nothing will elevate you as a leader more than successfully navigating through a storm.
People may be impressed by what we have built, but they are influenced by how we respond when someone or something tries to tear it down.
How can we respond well right now as leaders?
1. Accept Responsibility
When a crisis hits, the first thing we must do is accept responsibility. The crisis may not be our fault, but it’s up to us how it will impact us and the people we lead.
“Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you are in control, they are in control,” legendary NFL coach Tom Landry once said.
Whatever you do, refuse to make excuses. Show up and be present. This is not a time to shrink and disappear. Be visible and accessible in whatever way you can. People need to see us, in order to believe us.
2. Have a Plan
Crisis management should not happen on the fly. Make sure you are thinking ahead, wondering what if, and planning for what could be. When it comes to a crisis, you can’t lead from behind.
As a leader, you will come under a lot of pressure during a crisis, especially if you are taking responsibility and trying to lead well, but let me encourage you: having a plan doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers. In fact, if you think you have all the answers, I would be concerned!
Good leaders know they don’t possess all the answers — but they know where to get the answers.
Proverbs 13:20, says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.” The smartest thing you can do in a time of crisis is seek smart people who will give you wise counsel to help you succeed.
Above all, as a pastor, I believe we should seek the wisdom and counsel of God. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand,” says Proverbs 19:20–21. The wisest leaders recognize they need God’s help and guidance, at no other time more than during a crisis.
3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Effective leaders over communicate. This cannot be spin, political correctness, damage control, or just a speech exercise. It must be genuine and authentic. We are there to calm, comfort, and clarify.
Effective communication includes listening. We must listen and seek to understand those we are entrusted to lead. Make sure that you are listening to your staff and your people. This is crucial, especially at this time.
Make sure that you get your message out. Right now, one of the most effective ways to do this is to shoot a video. Let your people see your face and hear your voice. Let them know you are present and available.
4. Demonstrate Faith
Crisis will either destroy your faith or build it. When the storm is circling around you, you can stay calm and confident within because God is a “very present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
I have found that when a leader has faith in God and lives that faith out with integrity, people will follow. In crisis, people will give you the benefit of the doubt.
Faith gives us perseverance, true grit, and determination to keep going when we want to quit. It will enable us to rise to this occasion. People will follow men and women of faith, but only if their faith is real.
5. Genuinely Care about People
In a crisis, put people first. Care for the men and women you lead, not just the bottom line or your own position. They need to know they are secure.
Leaders show their true character in crisis. If we come across as uncaring or insensitive, we will lose our leadership. Love people and help them see the bigger picture as we all stay on mission. Great leaders find a way to inspire and motivate, especially in the tough times.
Above all else, leadership is not about what you do as much as who you are. It is your vision, yes, but it’s really your virtue that sustains leadership. We will not successfully lead in the face of a crisis without character.
So as we face this unprecedented crisis, take responsibility, put together a plan of action, communicate clearly, hang on to faith and care for the people you lead. If you do these five things, you will be remembered as a strong leader people were proud to follow in a time of crisis.