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10 Ways Successful Leaders Skilfully Manage Crisis

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10 Ways Successful Leaders Skilfully Manage Crisis

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” – John F. Kennedy

If you are facing a crisis, there are several to you manage it skilfully and get out alive. Here are 10 reliable ways successful leaders manage a crisis.

1. They face up to bad news

The first step is to acknowledge there is a crisis. Very often, problems are swept under the carpet until it is too late and the emergency can get out of control. The first thing to do is to assemble the team and look at the possible causes. All team members must be committed to telling the truth. Facing up to reality is the first step in overcoming any crisis. Don’t spin the truth.

An excellent example is Winston Churchill during World War II. He knew that some bad news might be filtered out and he might not be aware of it. This is why he set up a ‘bad news department’.

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2. They know that things may get worse

The successful leaders know that emergency corrective measures just may not be enough. They have to plan for the worst case scenario. This can mean taking radical action which will ensure a sustainable turnaround. Redundancies have to be made. There may be an urgent need to get legal advice and/or change public relations policy. Overall, they know that they will have to be committed, disciplined and above all, courageous.

3. They ensure that there is no breakdown in communication

Poor communication in a company can have devastating effects. Many team members may withhold or just not forward messages for various reasons:

  • Expectations are not clearly set out so seemingly minor problems are ignored
  • Misuse of data on a defective product
  • Information overload may lead to messages being overlooked
  • An ‘us vs. them’ mentality hampers communication
  • Some employees fear retribution if they mention a problem.
  • Some managers may ignore input because they know it all

The successful manager takes the lead in ‘no surprises management (NSM)’ by making sure that communication is open at all times.

4. They know when to make sacrifices

Encouraging and motivating the team to get through the crisis may mean sacrifices. The successful leader will take the initiative by making the first sacrifice and then encourage team members to do likewise.

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5. They mobilize their team by inspiring them

“Employees are expected to (be) ‘dedicated, professional, accurate, and ethical’.” – Larry Slate

Successful managers lead by example. There may be drastic changes to be made. They know how to adjust procedures, policies and objectives in line with the emergency. By being dedicated and professional at all times they will inspire and motivate their team to be the same.

6. They know how to adapt their management style

Sometimes, immediate changes have to be made and a more autocratic style of leadership has to be adopted. There are advantages in saving time and rescuing the company from disaster. The downside of this is that there will be no consultation. This may cause difficulty in building trust, respect, and dedication among the team members.

Daniel Goleman in the Harvard Business Review states that successful leaders can change their management style to suit the situation. He cites different styles from the authoritative or coercive at one of the end of the spectrum to the affiliative and democratic at the other end. Being able to switch style is the mark of a successful leader, according to Goleman.

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7. They know how to build trust

If you read Robert Papes’ book Management During an Economic Crisis, you will notice how much emphasis he places on building trust among the team. This is the mark of a truly successful leader and will stand him or her in good stead when a crisis looms. He mentions how important it is to be fair, open, keep promises, and treat people with dignity and respect.

8. They know how to communicate with the media

“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” – Henry A. Kissinger

Inevitably, if your company is in the mainstream, you will need to be able to communicate effectively and let the public and your stakeholders know what is happening. The wise leader will know how to answer media questions:

  • Avoid using jargon or fluffy language
  • Aim for clarity
  • Be confident and speak to the camera with strong eye contact
  • Never use ‘no comment’ as it may be interpreted as trying to hide something
  • Reduce disfluencies like ‘ah’ and ‘um’

9. They are not afraid to try new strategies

“Lead the crisis-  or the crisis will lead you!” – Alfred J. Lichte (retired 4 Star Air Force General)

Intelligent leaders know that desperate situations call for bold new strategies. They do not let fear distract them. This may involve improved systems or innovation. They know that speed will be key and are not afraid to be move decisively.

10. They are confident and optimistic

If a successful leader is emotionally intelligent, he or she will be able to lead the team with great empathy. He will be able to radiate energy with an upbeat attitude.

An example of a successful leader in a crisis was the New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, during the 9/11 disaster. He was able to demonstrate that the leadership was in control which was vital to people who were in a state of shock. He communicated clearly on a daily basis. He was visible and demonstrated a hands-on-approach which was very reassuring.

Let us know in the comments how you or your manager dealt with a crisis successfully.

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Featured photo credit: Woman manager/Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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