Leaders prove their real value when their leadership is tested. But when you wake up faced with a crisis management situation you don’t have the luxury of time on your side to go back and develop your skills or get more prepared. You have to make quick but correct executive decisions and steadily exhibit the poise and gravitas of calculated, strategic, responsive leadership that isn’t defensive, tainted with fear, and unprofessionally reactive.
You have to be a role model of leadership in action and ensure that your organization or team will weather the storm without a loss of morale or energy. That’s a lot to ask. But if you are up to the task these challenges can catapult you into the ranks of legendary leaders – both in your organization and across your industry.
What skills and qualities does this kind of leadership demand? Here are some of the core competencies you’ll want to develop in order to face those challenges in a bold, responsive way that defines your leadership brand in a positive way.
Leadership is Accountability
To lead, learn how to step up and own the outcome – whether it is positive or negative. Leaders who don’t take full responsibility for what happens on their watch are never going to inspire the troops. That lack of ownership undermines all credibility. Not only does it express a lack of courage, it also sends the message that nobody is ultimately in charge – or in control.
How you accept accountability is a true measure of your moral compass, and it demonstrates that you deserve your place at the head of the table. You earn that kind of respect by accepting the blame when things go wrong, instead of pointing fingers. That means that when things go right, everyone will also give you full credit for those accomplishments.
Failure Is Not Fatal
Don’t let a failure weaken your resolve or crumble your confidence, and don’t try to push it under the rug. Develop a narrative that lets you reframe past failures in a positive light. That can inspire others by showing your ability to take that kind of experience and learn from it and use it to grow as a more mature leader.
Develop your leadership skills and practice them daily, to maximize success and help eliminate the potential for failure. But acknowledge that everyone who is experienced enough to lead has endured setbacks and failures. What matters is how you bounce back. Cultivate a mindset of resiliency that interprets these missteps as tuition in the business school of life.
Expect the Unexpected
You cannot know what your next challenge or crisis will be. But you can evaluate your strengths and vulnerabilities and develop your leadership assets and tools accordingly. That way you are fully prepared and never caught off guard and ill-equipped.
To minimize setbacks and the potential for you to have to be held accountable for negative outcomes, you have to constantly train. Just as athletes win games on the practice field and while they are being coached to polish their abilities, the most influential leaders also stay in tip-top condition.
Train Hard, Win Easily
You may not be able to guess the next unexpected event. But you certainly can anticipate it and prepare for it. There is no excuse for a lack of leadership preparedness. That’s why I will drill leaders I am coaching, shadow them as they conduct meetings and give presentations, and play the role of a hard-questioning board member or skeptical customer.
We train using these realistic scenario-based formats so that when they get peppered with unexpected questions, have to face the media in the wake of a scandal, or need to deliver the presentation of a lifetime to a valuable client they are ready.
What leadership challenge or crisis scenario keeps you up at night? How can you preemptively address it, so that you are better prepared – and also get a better night’s sleep? I’d love to hear from you to learn from your insight and experience.