The COVID-19 crisis has fueled what uncertainty means with fresh perspectives around readiness and preparedness. This moment has elevated the importance of leading with a crisis aware state of mind. Especially when you consider that we are headed into accelerated change and uncertainty that will remain constant with peaks and valleys of stability and predictability.
Leading in a crisis aware state of mind is about practicing the following six principles:
- The inspiration to see opportunities in everything
During crisis, leaders must see opportunities everywhere, every day and make the most of them. They must be open-minded enough to search within conversations and adverse circumstances for possibilities that will help better serve those they lead – beyond the obvious. For example, crisis demands respecting different points of view to broaden your observations and perspectives about the reality that is right in front of you – so you can see the glass half full, not half empty.
- The flexibility to anticipate the unexpected
Leaders must get out in front of the crisis by practicing what I call, “circular vision:” the ability to see around, beneath and beyond what they seek. For example, begin to explore employee engagement analytics. Who are those that you can rely on now and in the future? This is the time for leaders to navigate and begin to identify new opportunities within the organization (i.e. talent and capability requirements) to prepare for the future (i.e. serve the new unique needs of your customers and clients).
- The freedom to unleash our passionate pursuits
In times of crisis, leaders oftentimes don’t trust themselves enough to take the first steps and define their strategies for change, since this is the basis for heightened accountability. They would rather be held accountable to others’ expectations than their own. Those types of leaders lack passion; and it’s passion that puts you in exploration mode. And exploration mode is what will help leaders see and seize previously unseen obstacles within the crisis before circumstances force their hand. For example, crisis is the time to reflect and explore your own values as an individual. Are you being true to your beliefs? Are you learning more about the things that fuels your thinking and desire to act?
- The room to live with an entrepreneurial spirit
A leader doesn’t need to be an entrepreneur to be entrepreneurial. But during crisis, leaders must have an entrepreneurial attitude. They must think big and be bold enough to make a difference and have an impact when the moment calls. The entrepreneurial spirit is about connecting the dots that don’t yet exist. For example, oftentimes when a crisis starts, we think we know how to best utilize resources. But when we are in the middle of the crisis, we realize that we have many more resources than we thought, and we instinctively begin to utilize them in ways that were not previously imagined.
- The trust to work with a generous purpose
Leadership during crisis is not about looking out for yourself – but more so about how to look out for the needs of others. For example, it requires leaders to ask for “in-the-moment” feedback and to respect the ideas and ideals of others. Trust during crisis is earned when leaders are reliable and they act on their word. When they commit to the needs of others before their own. When leaders are wise enough to enable their emotional intelligence by being vulnerable, open and honest. A leader strengthens trust by breaking down barriers because they see the value in differences to forge bonds in relationships.
- The respect to lead to leave a legacy
Legacies are born during crisis. We discover the leaders that are most respected based on how well they reacted and responded to all the chaos and uncertainty around them. Leaders have a responsibility to uphold the heritage and traditions of the organizations they serve. But during times of crisis they must equally hold themselves accountable to build on those traditions to further strengthen the organization’s culture and the communities of people they serve. For example, crisis puts our culture to the test. For leaders, these are culture defining moments that either strengthen the culture for future legacies or awaken leaders to realize the importance of establishing a culture to ensure a legacy platform is in place for the future.
These six principles of what I call, The Innovation Mentality. The Innovation Mentality helps us find the right rhythm to operationalize a crisis management mindset that is concurrently thinking and acting in ways to get out in front of the changing consequences of the crisis.
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