7 Tactics to Lead Through a Crisis

By Ron Price

After 50 years of serving in a wide variety of leadership roles, I’m convinced that every leader will face multiple crises as a normal part of the leadership journey. In my own experience, I have found myself in the middle of crises brought on by leadership failures, destructive fires, economic downturns, supply chain breakdowns, regulatory battles, business fraud, work violence, and now in 2020, a global pandemic. For much of my career, I viewed these crises as interruptions and distractions, seeking to put them behind as quickly as possible so we could get back to our organizational plans.

What if crises are an important and useful part of the life cycle for leaders and the organizations they serve? What if we could use crises to increase the trajectory for future success? What if the following quote from personal growth expert, Napoleon Hill, became a pivotal belief in our mindset as leaders?

“Every problem, every adversity, and every heartache has contained within it the seeds of equivalent or greater benefit.”

If we really believed this quote, we would immediately view each crisis as new opportunity. We would face crisis with an optimistic belief that something good was waiting to be discovered. And with the belief that “luck comes to us when preparation meets opportunity,” we would spring into action with enthusiasm and a positive expectation for the future.

Starting with the right mindset about crisis, we can then take practical steps to lead others through the turmoil to a brighter future. How? I believe the following steps will help those we lead join us in exercising hope for the future after a crisis:

  1. Set the example by how you care for yourself. To navigate a crisis successfully, we need to summon deeper levels of strength. By setting the example of self-care, we can inspire others to do the same.
  2. Be honest about the crisis. Followers need to know that their leaders see things as they are in a crisis before they can fully embrace an optimistic view of future possibilities.
  3. Don’t make promises you can’t fulfill. It can be tempting to reassure others through confident assertions about the future. However, it is always better to under-promise and then over-deliver as you work your way through the crisis.
  4. Realign commitments and resources as soon as possible. Every crisis requires adjustments to plans, budgets, resources, and commitments. Thinking these adjustments through early, then communicating them clearly, will help followers have confidence and support the necessary changes.
  5. Think differently about the future. Crisis is an opportune time for creativity and innovation. Innovation includes creating new value for customers through new products or services, more efficient processes, rethinking market positioning, and sometimes, complete paradigm changes in the nature of your business.
  6. Communicate well and often. Crisis often brings a loss of predictability. Followers need to hear from their leaders regularly. They need to hear clear, consistent messages that evolve as clarity around the new circumstances grows.
  7. Communicate gratitude instead of victimization. Leaders well equipped for crisis are resilient and flexible. Though they can’t control everything happening, they are intentional in finding things to be genuinely grateful for and they don’t succumb to temptations to complain, blame, or express discouragement.

When we realize that crises will come throughout our careers and that these moments of abrupt change present real opportunities for growth, we will prepare and then respond better. Instead of being slowed down by crisis, we will be propelled to greater success and deeper fulfillment, both for ourselves and those we lead.

Ron Price is a leadership advisor, strategist and author whose latest books include The Complete Leader, Growing Influence and The Innovator’s Advantage. Contact Ron at ron@price-associates.com with questions about leadership and crisis.