Let’s begin by defining Crisis as “a low probability, high-impact event that threatens the viability of the organization and is characterized by ambiguity of cause, effect, and means of resolution, as well as by a belief that decisions must be made swiftly” (Pearson & Clair, 1998; p. 60). The current CoVid-19 pandemic is by definition, a crisis; one that affects nearly every person and organization on the planet.
Human beings protect themselves mentally, emotionally, and physically during crisis and uncertain times. Our trust in others lowers, because we are afraid. Leaders must build trust, by helping people believe in their thinking, forming strong emotional connections, and creating safe physical spaces in the workplace. Leading with a focus on being human, being MORAL, form trusting relationships. Here’s how.
During Crisis, people search for a leader to step up, staking their claim as a person who is able to deliver a return to normalcy and away from fear. Ultimately, when we are in dire straits, we need leaders to be Moral people, who lead through courage, authenticity, vision, conviction and persistence of a leader. Moral leaders inspire trust by taking the following actions.
- Be Courageous: When times are tough, the tough get going! Everyone experiences fear. It is the act or courage, though, that sets apart the leader from the follower. During a time of Crisis, you may be scared to say or do anything because of uncertainty that your words or actions may make things worse. Doing nothing, however, is devastating. Find within yourself the flame that makes you want to step up to lead, and fan it with courage. People will follow courage, and you must overcome your own fears in order to help others find safety.
- Be authentic: Authenticity refers to being true to one’s self. In the midst of persuasion to say or do things that violate your values, or to pretend to be something your not, you must hold true to what makes you unique and valuable. It is more important now, more than ever, to follower your moral compass, to stand up for what you believe, to live into the leader you are meant to be. Being open about your abilities and limitations, and expressing vulnerability makes you a stronger leader, not a weaker one. Listen to the views of others, and being open to integrating the thoughts of others when they challenge your own ideas. Be transparent with information, even when that information may be ‘sensitive’, because sharing information gives you the power of letting other people help you find solutions. Mostly, if you try to be someone that you are not, you destroy trust. So, sometimes, it’s okay to admit that you don’t know everything, and that you may be out of your depth, and that your experience doesn’t help you in the current situation. Being authentic will allow you to invite the aide that you need, by the people who need you to lead.
- Communicate your vision: Your vision of the future tells people how you see the world at some future time; a time when things are better than they are now; a safe place that you will help them create. Encourage open dialogue with followers, give an accurate (rather than idealized) vision of the future. A truthful and solid vision gives employees the imagery of the future they need to reduce the level of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty. Tell your followers how your vision connects to what followers believe is important, how their actions help bring into existing a shared organizational vision.
- Convince with Conviction: “Say it loud and say it proud” (James Brown). Post your vision in every communication medium and channel to which you have access. Being bold demonstrates that you are committed to your beliefs, and sends the signal that you believe in your cause.
- Be persistent: Persistence when leading is the hallmark of great leaders. Persistent leaders do not quit when things get hard; they dig in and grind it out with dogged determination, blasting through the suck of it all. Nothing great was ever achieved by quitting; and persistent leaders know how to kick it into high gear when climbing mountains. Your team is looking to you, right now, in the middle of a pandemic, to see if you will persist in trials and tribulations; to see if you are someone who will work hard to get to the other side; to a better place. Paraphrasing, Thomas Edison said “I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Persist. Stand with your shoulders back and take the hits; keep going…because you will make it. You better, because everyone is looking to you to know when it’s quitting time; and if you don’t quit, neither will they.