How Great Leadership is Generated in Significant Crisis

For years I have studied and observed great leadership, teaching and coaching leaders and organizations around the world on the qualities that make leaders effective. One thing I’ve learned through that experience: when crisis hits, the best leaders are ready to act courageously and boldly. Their leadership grows and deepens even through dark times because they hold close to the core principles of leadership:

They think of others, not themselves. Many people are drawn to leadership because they want the titles and perks of a powerful position. In a time of crisis, those leaders generally find themselves facing an out-of-control disaster. Great leaders know that their power to steer through rough waters comes not from looking out for themselves but by putting the needs of their people first.

They confront reality instead of hiding behind speculation. The best leaders assess the situation and get the facts they need at every step. Especially in situations where fear and change are the norm, they need to be able to instill confidence that their communications and decisions are based in reality.

They say what needs to be said without hiding behind an agenda. When it’s time to communicate to their team or to the public, great leaders have the courage to be brutally transparent and honest. They refuse to hide behind an agenda; they’re not afraid to say what needs to be said, and they share the information they have wherever it might be useful.

They assign tasks and implement purpose. The worst thing a leader can do in a crisis is to say, “Let’s wait and see.” That approach does nothing to ease fears or alleviate anxiety and it ensures a complete lack of preparation, no matter what direction circumstances take. The best leaders take charge and act in the service of the company, the community, the people. They work to establish order and direction so people stay connected to a sense of purpose.

They stay flexible and willing to learn. Everyday leadership is one thing, but navigating through a crisis requires a certain level of comfort with chaos and dizzying change. Great leaders understand that they will have to make adjustments on the fly to accommodate a rapidly changing situation. They learn from their mistakes so they can pivot quickly as circumstances change.

They lift spirits when motivation is low. Great leaders make their people feel that even through the worst of times, they’re right there with them, and caring. They encourage everyone to push forward, lifting spirits and keeping motivation high, They have a presence that tells everyone around them, “We can make it.”

In times of crisis there are leaders who will fall back and fail to meet the challenge but for those who are there for the right reason, difficult times can provide fuel to grow into greatness.

Lead from within: In times of crisis there are leaders who will emerge to help us overcome our fears and anxiety. They will be a shining light in our dark moments.

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