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Recently, I had a front row seat to a corporate crisis at a multi-billion dollar Fortune 500 company. Here are seven effective leadership practices I observed…


The Nature of Crisis

Crises often come in two forms: Process crisis + People crisis. 


Process crises include everything from an assembly line going offline, to information system glitches, to hackers launching ransomware.


People crises include everything from flu outbreaks (or virus outbreaks over the past few years), labor shortages/availability, leadership development gaps to company culture breakdowns.


Crises are often not the “fault” of leadership but are 100% the responsibility of leadership in terms of how they respond (response-ability).


Whether process or people crises, the answer ultimately lies in leadership’s ability to Center Humanity in their crisis actions.


The Corporate Crisis


The crisis in question was a People Crisis. And, the leader-in-charge did an excellent job of navigating an unexpected, highly-disruptive series of breakdowns.


Here are seven effective practices leadership utilized: 


· The president captained the ship: Great leadership in the face of adversity has one primary mandate—stand at the helm of the ship heading into the storm. If the storm cannot be avoided, the “crew” must have confidence that the captain will lead them through it, while keeping everyone informed, engaged, connected, aligned and moving in the same direction.


· Communicating is essential: As often as was possible, the leader communicated with his people—candidly, authentically, and positively/realistically. The leader adopted an important, all-inclusive theme to their communication. Embracing a tone of, “I don’t know, but we will weather this storm together” was critical, especially in constantly-changing circumstances. Top down. Transparency. Compassion for all; kindness towards all—especially as the stress ramped up. Setting the tone.


· Modeling what must be done: Seeing the leaders—presidents, vice presidents, directors and high-level managers working 48-72 hours straight, their people saw leaders move into action and followed suit.


· Activating RelationshipsRelationships matter—especially in times of crisis. Relationship partners (clients, vendors and the general public) take their cues from workers, who take their cues from leaders. Calling these collaborators in real-time and sharing that a breakdown was happening and the company is aware of the impact, eased the way for relationship partners to relate to the situation with understanding and compassion, and less anger and frustration.


· Galvanizing People: More of an effect than an action, adversity (often) breeds comradery. Metaphorical fox hole invite an organization’s people into the shared experience—sharing the load. And, often, an organization’s people will rise to the occasion.


· Making Hard Choices: Sometimes, you make the best bad choice you can. This crisis may not be your fault, but it is your responsibility as a leader. There are no perfect choices, so at every turn, the leaders sought to make the best one available.


· Recognition + Reassurance: Crisis has a ripple effect. Often there is the primary crisis (cause), followed by the secondary crises (effects). Be aware of the secondary crises, but deal with the primary crisis first. Frequently, leaders attend to the primary crisis, but leave their people to deal with the secondary crises. Don’t do that. Let your people know that you know that the secondary crises exist and will continue to emerge beyond the primary, and that you will show the same attention to supporting them in the days and weeks beyond the primary crisis.


Key Takeaway: When crisis comes (and it will), double down on Centering Humanity. Lead, guide and support your people, as they—and you—rise to the occasion!



If this leadership concern rings true for you, contact me today to schedule a complimentary, confidential discussion.


For more than two decades, heads of state, CEOs and Executive Leaders around the world have sought me out to serve as their trusted advisor, create breakthroughs by discovering better ways to do and be, and contribute solutions that make a difference in the lives of others.


Let’s discuss how best to co-design a different, more effective way of leading for you that yields greater results and legacy, with increased fulfillment, satisfaction, and peace of mind.




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