We often talk about leaders needing to be passionate about their businesses. And I agree with that wholeheartedly. But we know that crises will arise at some point or another (like now!). I believe that element of DISpassion that can help us lead through those difficult times. You HAVE to be able to back away from a challenging situation and analyze it rationally. Your leadership is being tested…and you can rise to the challenge.
So, what the heck am I talking about? Over my many years in consulting (and especially when I worked in a corporate finance group focused on distressed companies) I’ve seen many leaders lose their cool during challenging times. It’s so easy to do. As a leader you are often confronted with unknowns (uncertain economies, shifting competition, changing customer needs/wants, etc.). But in a crisis the unknowns can grow exponentially; and the time you have to respond is usually compressed. And often those around you are alarmed and worried. These are the times that will challenge your leadership. One important determiner of your success is your ability to step back and assess the situation in a level-headed way.
Some thoughts about how to navigate these troubled waters:
Get a hold on your own emotions
We’re all human. When a crisis hits, each person may have a different perspective or a different set of concerns about what’s happening. And you are no different. As a leader it’s important for you to understand your own emotions…and then have the maturity to control them. That doesn’t mean you don’t still feel them and that you shouldn’t be empathetic to others’ feelings. It means that you have to put them aside, think clearly, and fulfill your responsibility as a leader. And knowing how you feel is step one.
Avoid knee-jerk decisions
Too often when leaders aren’t aware of their own emotions and have them in check, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotions and panic of others. Which can lead to bad decision-making. Part of your job is to stay above all that. It’s important for you to do what you can to not only have you own feelings under control, but to also help others do the same.
Focus on what information you and your team need to make informed, well thought out decisions.
Don’t go it alone
One thing that can really help you maintain your perspective is to reach out and talk with other leaders. Often someone you know has had to lead (or is also leading) a team or an organization through turbulent times. Discussing your challenges with someone who’s been there or is there can help you maintain your composure. Some questions to ask:
- Have you ever faced a similar situation?
- What were the 2-3 things that helped you manage your crisis effectively?
- Looking back, what would you have done differently?
- Do you have any advice for someone in my situation?
Talking with others who are or have been in your situation can be very beneficial at a moment of crisis.
If you are able to get your own emotions in check and step back from your situation, you will find that you are better able to clearly and level-heatedly make decisions and prepare (and communicate) a plan for handling the crisis. Your team needs – and is owed – your leadership.