5 Critical Behaviors of Leaders in a Crisis

Published April 7, 2020

The last time we had a national crisis of disproportionate magnitude, I was not on the sidelines. I was right in the thick of it. In these days, from the perspective of leading my own small business, I have thought a lot about the leaders I know. While the circumstances are different, I can imagine what they must be going through to keep their employees engaged and their organizations afloat.

During the 9/11 disaster and crisis, I observed the leaders around me. Like the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us had never been in the situation where we now find ourselves. Their cues taught me a lot about leading in difficult circumstances.

 

These are the 5 behaviors I observed that great leaders do in a crisis:

1. They embrace reality and translate it into a vision.

When times are tough, these kinds of leaders keep looking forward. Their experiences have taught them that the situation will eventually change. So, they want to focus on the next opportunity and be ready for it. They have the ability to recognize the seriousness and dire needs of the present, but at the same time, envision a different future. They project hope, positivity and optimism, but not in a foolish or naive way. They know how to strike the balance between reality and an improved future state.

 

2. They prioritize the issues quickly and reprioritize as often as necessary.

These leaders determine what needs to happen first and then next. They also understand that in a crisis, circumstances can change quickly, and they have to be prepared to pivot to a new priority. They use those priorities to create a strategy, and they adjust the strategy with additional information and insight.

 

3. They communicate to their employees and customers with crystal clear clarity.

They are transparent and provide people with the information they need to know, and they are confident enough to admit what they don’t know. When they have a plan, they share it with the stakeholders. They speak truth but layer in encouragement and grace too.

 

4. They focus on the concerns of others above themselves.

These leaders are skilled at empathy, and they gravitate to an attitude of “how can I help you,” instead of self-protectionism and preservation. They recognize that others are suffering just as much or more than they are. They don’t use their position to take advantage of others, but rather use the opportunity to help others.

 

5. They lead from the front.

These leaders don’t ask their team members to do anything they are not willing to do themselves. They stay in the trenches and on the frontlines. If circumstances prohibit in-person connection, they reach out constantly and listen to the concerns of those serving the organization and serving the clients and customers. They remain as visible and accessible as possible, even if only virtually.

 

The call to leadership is often greatest in a crisis. As goes the leader so goes the organization. Many leaders have gained followership in the crucible of a crisis. This is not a time for leaders to retreat into the chaos, but instead to rise to the moment and display the behaviors that will help their organizations not only survive, but even thrive in the aftermath.

About the Author
Dee Ann is a 33-year veteran of Chick-fil-A, Inc. Prior to retirement in 2018, she was Vice President, Talent and Vice President, Sustainability.

Dee Ann Turner

Author; Speaker; Former Vice President of Talent and Sustainability

Chick-fil-A, Inc

Dee Ann Turner played an intricate role in creating and growing the incredible, influential culture at Chick-fil-A. With 30 years of experience developing corporate talent, she served as Vice President of Talent and later Vice President of Sustainability. Turner’s insightful knowledge is revealed in her book, Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture and Win the Hearts of Customers. She is now CEO of Dee Ann Turner, LLC and shares her knowledge with clients globally. She serves on several boards and frequently participates in mission projects throughout the world.

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