Managing Crisis: Difficult, Yes? Constant, Yes!

Required, Yes! Any leader should understand that he/she would have to deal with a wide variety of difficult situations on a regular basis. From smaller day-to-day anomalies to massive scale setbacks, managing crisis situations goes hand in hand with being in a leadership role. Honing a number of skills to deal effectively with such circumstances is essential.

First, adaptability is key. Being adaptable and flexible are two necessary skills to be able to change your action plans quickly and think from different perspectives to find the best solution to any potential crisis. Knowing when to shift strategy is a very important but a rare quality. Great leaders master this and inspire their teams in the time of need.

Certainly managing any crisis also requires preparing beforehand for the ‘what ifs’ that can occur. Similar to a risk analysis, consider each and every probable crisis situation and develop an action plan in case of its occurrence. A great leader should be thinking along the lines of Murphy’s Law, “Any bad thing that can happen, will happen”, and make preparations accordingly.

The objective of any contingency plan is to protect the company and employees from being ambushed by a crisis that can be foreseen or predicted. It requires a level of awareness and knowledge of the societal, political, technological, and environmental landscapes that may – no, WILL – impact the best of plans. A visionary leader knows that dealing with crisis is a necessary component of his/her role. He/she should be mentally prepared for any kind of situation and also be ready to deal with sudden, unforeseen situations.

Third, swift action can be the difference between solution and total calamity. Decisiveness is an extremely important quality for a leader, more so in critical situations. All options must be brought to the table and weighed, no matter how difficult or undesirable they might seem. When a decision is made and a plan is developed and vetted, it must be put it into action as quickly as possible.

The fourth key aspect of managing a crisis is to be as clear as you can with all stakeholders. Miscommunication can have drastic consequences when it comes to dealing under high-pressure circumstances like a company-wide crisis. From a media/public relations standpoint as well, openness and honesty protect you from reactions that would negatively impact your reputation. Clarity and honesty with all stakeholders go a long way in not only building relationships, but also presenting a united front, which is critical when you are trying to solve a crisis.

Fifth is courage. During a crisis, a leader will have to make difficult decisions, which may include selecting sacrificial or disadvantageous options for a time. A great leader must have the courage to make such a decision. Difficult times will open doors for critics, and condemnation from different channels. A great leader must be able to stay focused through it all.

Finally, a leader should be brave and optimistic in the face of hardships to ensure that she/he can implement the best solution, lead through it, and come out even better on the other side.
The bottom line for managing crisis requires:
 Courage
 Open Communication
 Adaptability and Flexibility
 Preparedness
 Calm and Swift Action to Prevent or Limit Chaos
 Optimism

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