The feedback for our post about crisis followership was much appreciated and we hope this update adds similar value to your preparations.  In that previous post we discussed a view on the nature of leadership, it’s connection with followership and the art of being a good follower.  In this post we’ll examine crisis through the lens of the leader and explain how this might help your preparations as crisis leaders.

Accepting that ‘leadership’ (noun) has three dimensions (leader, follower, context) and that these three  must be in harmony for ‘leadership’ to be present, it’s clear that a leader must influence all dimensions, especially in a crisis. Impacting in an unbalanced way or failing to have any impact on these dimensions will restrict the effectiveness of the response to a crisis.

So What?

Accepting all that’s been said thus far it’s therefore an easy step to appreciate that the crisis leader must (yes, must) deliberately seek to influence all three dimensions for best effect. This is perhaps equally as true for the day to day challenges of leadership as it is for times of crisis.

Context.  Crisis leaders must exercise judgement and skill in influencing the context for a positive effect.  This requires them to understand the situation and its implications for their people, their organisation and the impacts on other interested parties (customers and regulators for example).  Leaders must make decisions based on this clarity of understanding with a view to generating actions and safeguarding against unintended consequences.  And those supporting leaders must identify when and how these actions are having an effect on the context(s) and feed this information back for further decisions.  All of this requires crisis leaders to be clear about the three questions of context: where are we now, where do we want to get to and how are we going to achieve this.

Followers.  This group was the subject of the previous post.  From a leader’s perspective, connecting with followers both within and beyond the organisation in a way that resonates is key to altering the context in your favour.  It’ll be a challenge for leaders to try and establish this rapport as the waves of crisis break over their heads; lay the groundwork to build these relationships and connections now.  Develop an understanding of followers’  expectations and of ‘what makes them tick’ and use this thoughtfully during times of crisis.

Leaders.  In the course of our work we often come across those who believe that a totally different model of leadership applies in times of crisis.  Its true that leaders must respond to the context(s) within which they are operating but it doesn’t follow that anything goes as far as leaders’ behaviour is concerned.  In fact the reverse is true; crisis intensifies the spotlight and pressure on leaders at all levels.  Remaining mindful of your behaviour, coping with pressure and maintaining a clarity of mind and of purpose is more important than ever.  Exercise the arts of leadership to lead by example and trust that your followers are skilled enough to help keep you on track.

By consciously operating within and upon the three dimensions of ‘leadership’, crisis leaders stand a better chance of success.  Practice makes perfect though; so we would encourage leaders to adopt this guidance in daily life and use the environment of scenario based tests and exercises to practice adapting to the changing context of a crisis.