How would you respond to a crippling crisis that affects your team? Who would your employees look toward to lead them through troubling times? These are questions that may have seemed hypothetical two months ago but are now real issues that business leaders across the world are facing. We are in an unprecedented situation with more uncertainty seemingly every day. But when problems arise, it is the effective leader who ascends out of the struggle, embraces the weight of the moment, and leads those around them through the uncertainty. Your team is looking for someone to stand above the storm and be the beacon they can follow. Rise up and embrace your role as the leader everyone needs.
Understanding the Traits of an Effective Leader
During difficult times, it is important to understand the qualities team members are looking for in their leader, as well as the necessary skills and traits needed to guide an organization through rough waters.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” This truth is never more accurate than when leading in strenuous times. The effective leader doesn’t ignore the fear of uncertainty, anxiety surrounding the situation, or trepidation embodied within a seemingly impossible task. No, the successful person embraces the fear and fights through the situation understanding the overall wellbeing of the organization is more important than the risk of failure or fear of the unknown.
Understand that while you may be the sole beacon others are looking toward, you have in your employees multitudes of experience, an abundance of skills, and a stockpile of strong will. Embrace all that you have when fighting a battle and lead your team with the courage needed to see it through.
One of the number one issues that can derail organizations is a communication breakdown, or simply the lack thereof. During unprecedented times, clear and concise communication is more important than ever. Your team is expecting guidance, information, and a plan from leadership. They want to know they aren’t alone. You need to either be the one person within your organization who is disseminating information or choose a designated person to handle communication to ensure there is one source and avoid confusion.
Due to heightened emotions and anxiety, misinformation can spread like wildfire within an organization, which is highly counterproductive during times of crisis and sometimes causes unneeded damage. According to The Harris Poll, “13% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization communicates effectively with the rest of the organization. The remaining 87% leaves a lot of room for misinformation to spread.” Deliver clear and concise communication to lead your team and avoid adding unwanted stress and confusion.
When the harbinger hits and a crisis is on the horizon, it is important for leaders to embrace the values of integrity, humility, and resolve. While uncertain times call for unprecedented measures, the emergency preparedness plan of an organization needs to kick in. However, situations often evolve, causing backtracking and revising of plans, communication, and messaging. Your employees will understand that you may be learning how to deal with the problem on the fly; they aren’t expecting you to know everything.
Consistency isn’t simply the act of staying the course or holding tight to a plan that doesn’t change with evolving circumstances. Consistency is a virtue that means regardless of what happens, a leader will maintain a resolute demeanor and in all things have integrity to be honest during all steps of the crisis, humble enough to ask questions of experts and delegate tasks to other team members, and steadfast to take on the responsibility of the problem and seeing it through to the end.
When tumultuous times overtake your organization or the community, the stress that ensues can and may inevitably affect you and your team members. From emotional to physical to family-related issues, your employees may be dealing with the crisis from several different angles. Because of this reality, it is imperative to lead with empathy and compassion. Renown phycologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that basic individual needs must be met before motivation drives higher levels of needs, including self-actualization.
During a crisis, basic human needs must be met before your employees can be fully productive. Because of this, the leader must lead with a full understanding of the different factors affecting the team, all while providing the assurance of compassion and charity by allowing for flexibility with employees. Understand that all facets of life are affected during a crisis and your team may need time to handle life issues before they can handle work problems. Give compassion when compassion is needed.
Leading Your Team through Uncertainty
While no one can predict every global crisis or localized conflict that may arise, the effective leader can develop the traits needed to lead an organization through uncertain times. By embracing courage, communication, consistency, and compassion, the enemy of the moment will have less power in negatively affecting you and your team. Understand that while storms may come and waters around you rise, you have what it takes to navigate your team through these times. Embrace the moment, rise up, and be the beacon your team is looking for.
What traits do you see effective leaders have? How have you lead your team through crisis and uncertainty? Let us know in the comments section below!