Early in March, I received an email about leadership from the consulting firm, KornFerry. I read it and put it aside, not thinking too much about it. Now, almost ten weeks into the coronavirus pandemic “shelter at home” period, I picked it up again. Whether you have your own business, whether you work for someone else, or if you are just observing how our elected officials are leading our country during this time, recognizing good leadership skills can be important. And during a period such as this, the most important leadership skill is crisis management.

podium-speaker   During a crisis, leaders do not always have the answers, but what they are able to do is manage their own, and their organization’s, response to ambiguity. Here is how they do it:

1. Anticipate… try to predict what lies ahead. Be aware of people’s basic needs (such as masks and hand sanitizer) in the short term, before you can plan for the future. It is also important to anticipate the consequences of the initial crisis and consider all of the possibilities. Don’t stop at Plan A, you may need a B and a C.

2. Navigate…course correct in real-time. It is important to distinguish between the important and the urgent, and in a crisis, the urgent can become critical. Delegating to get things done may be the only way to address all that is happening at once.

3. Communicate…continually. Communication is more than just words. It is the ability to connect with, inspire, and motivate others. It is even more important to show genuine compassion.

4. Listen…even to those things you do not want to hear. A good leader listens to all the essential reliable sources of information and trusts those who inform him or her. Accepting and trusting that others may be right is part of good leadership.

5. Learn…from experience and apply it in the future. Turn to others who have been there before you or those who have had similar experiences. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you are the only one who knows what to do.

6. Lead…improve yourself so that you can bring others up behind you. It is essential to have a mindset of humility and accountability, rather than hubris and bravado.

As Gary Burnison of Korn Ferry says, “The natural inclination in a crisis may be to go into command-and-control. That’s not leadership! It’s creating a bottom-up culture of world-class observers to accurately perceive today in order to predict tomorrow.”

When you think about your own company, think about what you can do to improve your own leadership style. Although we are in the midst of a pandemic, a crisis can actually accelerate your leadership learning and your ability to apply past lessons to new and unanticipated situations.

Alison P. Block, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and the Director of the Health Psychology Center in Oceanport, NJ, www.dralisonblock.com, e-mail Dr. Block at drblock@dralisonblock.com or call her office at 732-933-1333.

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