The One Leadership Trait That Is Absolutely Necessary For Managing a Crisis

by | May 20, 2020 | Leadership


Most of us have experienced both a personal and also professional crisis over the last few months. During this season, some leaders have thrived, where others have withered. 

There are many different reasons for why some leaders are finding success and others are struggling and it would be naive to think that one factor could make all the difference. But as I’ve studied both our current professional and personal horizon, I have seen one consistent trait in the leaders who are not crumbling amidst the burden of this medical and economic crisis. 

That trait is authenticity. 

Authentic leaders are rising above the chaos, being praised and trusted by their teams (or followers). On the other hand, self-serving leaders are in a sharp descent (like the stock market a few weeks ago), being exposed for their selfish and hidden agendas.

During a crisis here are a few things authentic leaders do well: 


Understand Priorities

For most of us, there is a dichotomy between our desired priorities (those we say with our lips) and our actual priorities (those we actually live out). For example, almost everyone says that their family is one of the top one or two priorities in their life. But usually their calendar tells a different story. Their family actually gets their leftovers because of the amount of time they spend at work.

In our personal life, our priorities should be in this order: faith, spouse, family, self, friends. In the professional world, our priorities should be employees, customers, and then the business. 

Authentic leaders at home are putting their money where their mouth is by prioritizing their marriages and kids. They are willing to take some time away from work in the afternoon to go on a bike ride with the family. These leaders recognize that in a crisis (and, really, in any season of life) their family needs them first. 

In the professional world, authentic leaders are making sure that their employees and customers feel valued over the bottom line of the business. These leaders are prioritizing the health, safety, and well being of their employees over profit. 

Authentic leaders avoid hypocrisy. They strive to close the gap between their desired and actual priorities. You see, a crisis reveals our true priorities and motives.


Confront Brutal Facts

I mentioned this point in my post on Leading In Uncertainty but it’s worth revisiting. 

Authentic leaders take the time to gather the facts, rank those facts from most to least important, and then make decisions through the lens of their priorities.

These leaders are not scared to face fear and make difficult decisions. 

Their concern is more for those people who have been entrusted to them than their own well being or comfort as a leader. 


Concise, Transparent Communication 

Once a course of action has been determined, these leaders don’t mince words. They communicate the facts no matter how difficult they are and they do so with empathy and conciseness. They don’t want their message watered down with too many words. Knowing that where words are many, a hidden agenda closely follows

If you want a great example of a leader who did this, check out Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International and his message to their company


Consistent, Frequent Follow-Up

Authentic leaders recognize they can’t communicate an exhaustive plan for the next 12 months when you are going through a pandemic and unstable economy.

All you can do is communicate the next step and that’s it. 

But afterward, you need to have frequent “check-ins” where your team can communicate their fears, frustrations, and questions. These check-ins also provide an opportunity for you to keep a pulse on your team’s (or even family’s) emotional health. 

It is important that your team find out key information from you and not the media or news. Stay ahead as much as possible. And don’t be afraid to say you are unsure of what the future holds.


Decisive Debrief

As many states have started to reopen, all leaders need to carve out time to debrief. Meaning, they need to take time to learn from both the successes and failures during this unique season. 

This won’t be the last season of adversity we face both personally and professionally. And the debrief helps us grow individually as a leader and helps us prepare for the future crises that we are sure to encounter. 


Game Plan

Look over the five actions of an authentic leader. Which did you struggle with during this crisis (both at work and at home)? Why did you struggle in that area?

Next, take some to create a plan of what you would do differently the next time a crisis comes.


Tweetable Lesson


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