Crafting an open-minded leadership response to a crisis

In a crisis, leaders are best served to establish their game plan for a response after collecting input from those being led.

Of course, the times we are in are unprecedented. The impact that Covid-19 has had on all of humanity is gripping. Typically, in most moments of crisis there are pockets of people in the world who are not directly impacted and therefore pretty much go about their lives. Not so with COVID-19. One can argue that every man, woman and child on earth has been impacted. That’s a high stakes crisis.

In responding to the crisis we are flooded with data points coming from all directions.  In no time at all we find ourselves lining up in camps, quick to hold onto our position about one course of action or another.  And there are plenty of  decisions to be made that will determine the success of the crisis response.  For example, with regard to the pandemic, here’s a few of the more notable questions that we are debating as a nation:

  • Was our response early on appropriate or were we slow to react as a nation?
  • Should our response to the virus be controlled at the federal level, or should the states take responsibility for their own set of rules?
  • Is there the right balance between saving lives and saving jobs?
  • Did the stimulus package contain the right things for the right constituents?
  • And now, do we open up the country or do we maintain shelter at home orders for the time being?

No doubt, as soon as you read one of these questions you have your answer prepared. Your point of view is locked in.  For many of us, it would be futile to try to dissuade us from our stance on these matters.  I understand that.  That’s how we’re wired.

Fortunately, most crises we will face in our careers will not be a matter of life and death.  While Covid-19 is a crisis of epic proportion, let’s use it as a proxy for ‘fill-in-the-blank’ crisis.  Suppose you are the leader during a ‘fill-in-the-blank’ crisis and you need to steer the ship in the direction that works best. I’m talking about being the leader of your organization, your company, your business, your department, or even your family.  During a crisis, every day there are decisions to be made on how to respond, how to deal with the challenge that faces us head on.  And, guess what?  In deciding on which paths to take in dealing with the fill-in-the-blank crisis there are differing points of view on how to proceed.  As the leader you may quickly settle on a stance on how to proceed.  You have a strong opinion and you stake your ground early and drive everyone to your side of things. You could do that. I’m sure it can work.  This is how the military does things.  But, there’s another way.

While setting aside your point of view, keep an open mind and start collecting input from those you are leading. Hear from all sides.  Collect data.  Force yourself to not just listen to what people are saying, but to truly hear. Practice what Steven Covey referred to as ‘seek first to understand then to be understood.’  Don’t judge those with opposing philosophies or beliefs. Realize that when leading a number of people, statistically you are bound to have those under you that don’t think like you do. Embrace it, accept it, don’t fight it.  At some point, you’ll know when enough input has been received and you’ll know when it’s time to set a course and command your team to follow. The results will ‘stick’ because you set your own point of view aside long enough to understand the mindsets of those you are charged to lead.  And, even though you don’t agree with the views of some on your team, knowing how they think will help you better lead them.

Be safe out there…..







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