In modern times, and with the tentacles of the internet and specifically social media infiltrating all areas of our lives, our society is now in a position where the binary choice of right or wrong seems to be dependent on whether the person agrees or disagrees with the idea before them.
This polarisation seems to threaten the basic tenants of what has driven the human race to dream and achieve. The definition of truth, which historically would have been clear based on facts and evidence, is now being drawn into an area where interpretation and selective ideas can influence the perception of the truth based on our ideas and views.
And we arrive at this point in time, where a crisis has hit the world and rather it being confined to one individual, company, sector, country, it has the capacity to impact everyone across the globe. In these unprecedented moments, we look to our leaders to give us direction and reality check what we hear so we can look forward in a reasonably objective manner.
In a time of crisis, leaders need to ensure they are exuding a sense of calm. This is not implying that the leader should be acting as if there are not concerned but that they are focussed on the practical and not an indulgence in the unknown.
It is critical that while we, as individuals, might have opinions and ideas about how the crisis might evolve and the impact it has, these are opinions and ideas which as leaders do not necessarily provide benefit, direction or reassurance to the business or team that is being led. The calmness of the leader should be demonstrated by a focus on what the team or the business needs to be delivering rather than speculation about the wider environment and crisis.
It’s only during a crisis when a leader should stop demonstrating medium- or long-term strategic thinking but rather focus on the short term and reacting in an assured manner to the circumstances. Their team will be looking for guidance and direction as how they should react to the actual situation.
Leaders also need to understand that their role needs to reverse. During a societal crisis, every member of their team is thinking through the implications to the business and themselves (not necessarily in that order!). This means the leader needs to take themselves away from the big picture and make sure the factors in play that can be influenced and controlled by the team are those that are being thought through and actioned.
For those leaders who come from a background of starting up their own business, it is a return for them to their start up days, where the ability to react quickly to circumstances, to have a can-do attitude and a willingness to get busy on everything and anything that occurs is a welcome return to the formative years. It gives the leader a chance to really demonstrate to their team that they lead by example and an absolute willingness to focus on delivering their service and value to their clients. The leader should see crises as an opportunity for their team to gain a spirit and togetherness which comes from adversity.
For any leader, in a time where the future is uncertain due to circumstances beyond the team’s control, leadership takes a whole new perspective. As the uncertainty is dominating the wider environment of their team’s lives, the team are looking for a sense of stability and security from their workplace.
Delivering this might be the antithesis of how the leader’s personal perspective currently stands but they need to take out these personal feelings to deliver to their team so that they focus on the areas they can control. These times also allow the leader to re-inject or re-focus their team around their strengths and ensuring they are delivering the value to clients to the peak of their abilities which can sometimes get slightly side-lined through complacency when the world is calm and business is carrying on as normal.
A leader should see crises as a time for them to demonstrate outward leadership and deliver the clear and decisive leadership that the team is looking for. Embracing traits of leading with a calmness and clarity of perspective will empower the team in different ways and ensure that the focus is directed in a positive way towards areas which can be influenced while the wider crisis reaches its conclusion.
Nick Gold, Managing Director of Speakers Corner