Leadership Libations

September 25, 2009

Crisis – the true test of a leader

Filed under: Uncategorized — robjelinek @ 8:42 am

Funny, this week I had a blog post that went up Tuesday Morning. I had written it a few weeks ago while in Atlanta. The post was focused on driving in Atlanta – and yes touched on driving in the rain, as Atlanta was at the beginning of the current Monsoon’s. I cringed when it showed up in my reader. Having many friends in Atlanta, the pictures and challenges they are dealing with due to some of the worst flooding in 90 years made the decision to pull the blog down easy. Perhaps another day, or perhaps it won’t see the light of day.

This combined with a couple other business challenges I am working, the differing approaches I am seeing from other organizations leadership in dealing with these, and it was a nice reminder on when leadership really matters. Judge_Smails

As a very well known leadership guru – Judge Smail’s from Caddyshack circa 1980 once said:
“It’s easy to grin, When your ship comes in, And you’ve got the stock market beat. But the man worthwhile, Is the man who can smile, When his shorts are too tight in the seat.”

Yes, the real test of leadership is when challenges and crisis arrive. Everyone is looking to leaders and watching the way they act, their demeanor, their consistency, and importantly do they lead from the front or are they at headquarters giving commands?

The 3 questions I would recommend you keep in mind as you head into crisis, Are You?
Are you tackling things Head On?
Are you a leader who will Step Up?
Are you a Steadying Force?

Head On – When there are challenges, it is often easy to hope they go away, too pretend they don’t exist, too minimize your customer’s (or people, or supplier) concern. This ostrich management rarely works. The mole hill quickly becomes a mountain. So, whether it’s a mole hill or a mountain, a leader needs to face the challenges head-on. None of us is perfect, that said, none of us really like to face that we are less than perfect. A leader needs to be willing to face there challenges head on in the spirit of possibilities and solutions.

ostrich_head_sand2Lesson – It’s a tad cliché to talk about “outside the box” thinking. I prefer to think of a leader as someone who in the darkest of times is thinking about what is possible and creates winning solutions to challenges. Are you sticking your head in the sand to a brewing mountain? What concerns are you hearing, but not listening to from your people, customers, or suppliers?

Step Up – As Sir Lancelot once said in Monty Python’s Holy Grail “Lets not bicker over who killed who”. There will be time enough for post-mortem’s, blame, and hand wringing when the crisis is resolved. A leader needs to step up. Whether the issue is internal or external, whether you were 100% accountable or completely removed, it just doesn’t matter. Your team, your client, your supplier, your customer are all watching you, your willingness to Step-Up and lead. Do you look for scapegoats? Do the words – “It’s not our fault” or the like keep coming out of your mouth during crisis?

Lesson – A leader is on stage 24×7, but never more than during a crisis. Are your team, your customers, and your business partners confident that you will step-up?

Steadying Force – One thing all crisis’ have in common is that when the heat turns up emotions run high. Whether the emotions are passion to a choice, anger over a perceived wrong, fear over implications, or a mule like stubbornness in the need to be right; one thing that occurs as these energies run high is the volume get raised – both literally and figuratively – while at times a leaders job is to rally the troops. During a crisis, when the team is facing the eye of the storm, it’s the leaders job to lower the volume and provide a steadying force. That steadying force should be foundational – grounded in principles, be data-based, and importantly get everyone focused on working towards a goal/solution vs. those emotional tendencies.

Lesson – A leader’s job is helping a team successfully navigate each day. When the heat turns up, are you feeding the flames? Are you living your foundational leadership values and principles in time of crisis?

So, keep in mind – Crisis is the true test of a leader – how is your crisis leadership?

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