Crisis is a test of leadership. Good leaders rise to the occasion, build trust and optimism, and can emerge more profitable, while fearful leaders are more likely to miss the mark. Leaders who remain calm during a crisis are better equipped to see the forest through the trees and make bold decisions. They can manage their fears, tap into possibilities and mobilize teams. Leading teams through crisis is a testament to a leader’s own resilience and fortitude.
Effective leadership is both empathetic and courageous. Leaders can empathize with the people around them, encourage creative problem-solving, and lead alongside the team in the trenches. Those who become self-absorbed and act out of fear may amplify the crisis and create cracks in relationships that will outlast the storm.
It is normal for our brain, specifically the amygdala, to be triggered into fight, flight or freeze mode for survival. If we can learn how to manage the stress response and work around the amygdala’s natural tendencies, we can become better at leading teams through crisis. This involves self-awareness, and learning to not just “manage” stress but shift how we perceive stress altogether. If we can normalize stress, then feeling “stressed out” becomes less of a catastrophic state.
During a crisis, strong leaders realize that panicking creates more stress, and a grace under fire approach leads to better outcomes (“this too shall pass“).
So how can you help your team now?
Below are questions to ask team members during a crisis (or any time). Even as we ask these questions, our actions and behaviors need to align.
Questions to ask while leading teams through crisis
- How is everything?
- What are some ways you are managing through this?
- How are you feeling?
- What do you think about what’s happening?
- What are some of your concerns?
- How can I best support you?
- What do you think is going well?
- What’s not working?
- How is your family doing?
- What do you need in this moment?
- What are you looking forward to?
Leaders can create a safe space for team members to explore and express their perspectives. By extending the podium so others can help and practice their leadership skills, we can maneuver through crises and emerge together as a stronger team. We can even share our own experiences and bring vulnerability to the dialogue.
As we continue to strengthen our leadership muscles and self-regulate our emotions, we can show up as better leaders for ourselves and for others.
Copyright © 2021 Manisha Dhawan. All rights reserved.
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Manisha Dhawan, Founder and CEO of MPath Coaching, is a certified professional coach (CPC), MBA and management consultant with 2 decades of experience leading digital innovation and change management initiatives across multiple industries. As a design thinking specialist and lifelong learner, Manisha is passionate about empowering executives to advance leadership skills, maximize team potential, and drive innovation forward. In addition to corporate coaching, Manisha works with professionals on career strategy and human skills development.