Depending on your role in leadership, hundreds, thousands, or even millions of eyes are watching you. They want to see what you do, how you act and react, what you will say, and how you will respond. In times of chaos and crisis, those watchful eyes are even more focused on leadership. It is not an easy feat to lead during these arduous times, as most are looking for answers, direction, and guidance. Here are three objectives I believe are essential for leadership to be successful while leading during chaos and crisis. I understand that there are many qualities that are needed in leadership during difficult times, however, if I wrote about all of them, this would be a book more than a blog.
During times of disorder and calamity, it is crucial that leadership learn to be still. Panic breeds panic, and calm breeds calm. Your worst enemy as a leader is quick, brash decision making. Learn to be still. There is an old adage that says, “Before making a critical decision, you should sleep on it.” I understand that there are times when this is not possible, but the point is to take a step back, breathe, and not rush into a decision. Another way to to think about being still is to slow down. Slow down your thinking, slow down your emotions, slow down your mental state of mind. Leaders are responsible for those they lead, and when decisions are rushed instead of carefully considered, you run the risk of causing more harm than good. So before you act on anything, take the time to slow down, be still, and make well informed decisions.
Be humble. As people are going through a range of emotions during times of chaos and crisis, there is no doubt that you will be too. However, leaders are seen as examples to follow. Do not presume you have all of the answers; more than likely, you don’t. Do not give false hope, as this will do more harm than good. Do not take credit for something that others have been working hard to accomplish. Throughout the confusion and trouble, remain humble. Place credit where credit is due, give honest answers and feedback, and never forget, it’s okay to say “I don’t know.” As St. Vincent de Paul once said, “Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying.” Humility is the foundation in which trust is built. Remember, the leaders job is to support, encourage, and help those they lead.
Finally, hold yourself accountable. There is never an excuse for poor choices, bad decisions, and a lack of integrity. Live by a code of self responsibility. When everything around you seems to be crashing down, things no longer make sense, and injustice may be all around you, hold yourself accountable to your actions, your motives, and your words. Do not let your actions become something that destroys your reputation. If you live by a personal code to take responsibility for your actions and words, then what you do and say will be more closely considered and well thought out. As a leader, be the example for others to follow. Be the example of what is right. Do not succumb to the desire to act out in frustration, anger, hurt, pride, or fear. Hold yourself accountable above all things.
If you have ever been in a situation where everything seems to be going wrong, people are doing more harm than good, the actions of others are having negative consequences, or everything you know seems to be crashing down all around you, then you will know how easy it is to react based on emotions and feelings or get caught up in the same chaotic mentality. Before you make a decision or take actions, slow down and be still. Be humble in your actions and words. Hold yourself accountable for everything you do and say. Be the example others can follow. Do not follow the chaos into more crises. Rather, lead others by doing what is right, when what is right is hard to find.