How do great leaders handle crises or disasters?
We’ve seen a number of crises lately. From storms, to corporate mess ups, to brand fails, and economic struggles, there are plenty to choose from. How do great leaders tackle these situations well?
They Lead By Example
It’s easy to tell others what they should be doing. Great leaders don’t just tell, organize, and delegate; they do. They lead by example. They demonstrate what they believe the best response is. Others follow their lead. If you want people to go or give, just do it yourself.
They Take on the Challenge
Good crisis leaders step up to the plate. They know they can’t hide and wait for someone else to handle it. They know it isn’t likely to get any better, unless they take action. There will always be challenges. It won’t always be easy. The difference is whether these situations are seen as depressing roadblocks, or urgent opportunities.
They Bite the Bullet
Sometimes crises can be expensive. Some bosses may think that they can just let their customers or vendors deal with that cost. Some have even made things worse; like the Equifax executives who hid the recent hack, sold personal stock, and then recommend its victims by another product from them for protection and sign a waiver that bars them from compensation from a class action lawsuit. Others step up to provide help, even if they aren’t obliged to. It may not have been the Equifax execs’ fault that data was hacked. But, they could have taken a completely different route. They could have warned the public early, provided a free protection service (instead of trying to make billions on it), and could have pledged some of their stock in aid for those affected. In real estate a good mortgage broker or agent will face these challenges all the time. Maybe the bank product given to a customer wasn’t what it was supposed to be, or extra costs arose by closing. Those losses could be dumped on customers, or they could be soaked up by cutting commissions. Guess which professional will have the privilege of becoming a respected leader? Things happen, it’s what you do in response that really matters.
They Act Fast
If you are a president on vacation or a CEO out at his ski cabin when something big goes wrong, you respond fast. If a major natural disaster strikes your country, you don’t finish your two weeks golfing and laying at the pool before addressing it. It may not be wise to immediately fly into a hurricane, but you can put your business suit on and make a statement via video and social media. You may not have all the facts, your words may not be able to change the physical damage, but you’ll get a lot more respect for being present and showing that you are on top of it.
They Communicate Well
Top leaders have to be great at communication. They have teams of strategists, PR reps, speech coaches, and writers who carefully construct their words. These professionals can provide great insight and saves, as there are so many worldviews out there. Not everyone will understand where you are coming from, or what you are trying to communicate, especially in just 160 characters. You may never please everyone, but a lot of effort should be put into at least trying to convey your story, message, and purpose clearly.
Real leaders listen. They may have great vision, and know where they want to go and take others, and how. Yet, the big difference comes in listening. It’s not always easy to do. Especially when many of your most vocal respondents are the negative ones. Especially in today’s online environment. Listen a lot. Have some sense in who you listen too, and how much weight you put on different feedback.
No one ever gets it right 100% of the time. This is especially true when you have to act fast, make big decisions, and declare them publicly. It is better to be decisive and action oriented than slow. Yet, sometimes you will make mistakes. It takes a far bigger person to be able to come out and apologize for miscalculations and miscommunications or errors than to hide or try to cover it up. People will respect that.
They Are Prepared
Fast Company says one of the big difference in effective crisis management is preparation. This may be capital reserves or physical supplies like water and tarps. Or it could be having backup website pages, press releases, emails, and social media posts that can be rolled out to begin dealing with the situation immediately.