Crises can arise in many ways and often strike without warning.

In fact, the current global Covid-19 crisis has tested leadership from many different angles and nuances.

Today, more than ever, it is key that executives lead and manage effectively. Addressing the urgent needs of the present is the main task of management, decision making is crucial, in a timely manner, as well as the allocation of resources.

The pace is even faster and the actions are decisive.

On the other hand, leadership involves guiding people towards the best possible result during the crisis, which, like all cycles, has a beginning, a middle and an end.

The leader must be focused on what is likely to come next and start preparing for it. That means looking beyond the immediate to anticipate the next three, four, or five obstacles that will arise along the way.

The best leaders skillfully navigate troubled waters, saving lives, energizing organizations, and inspiring communities.

But what skills differentiate a good leader from a great leader in times of crisis?

We identified five key aspects that make the difference and generate value in today's times:

1) CALM DURING THE STORM

When a crisis hits, the most important task for the CEO is to overcome the natural tendency to become reactive and act defensively.

The great CEOs keep a cool head and continue to work rationally, relying particularly on their ability to think systemically. They must analyze the new reality, adjust their mental models, evaluate the options, make decisions and only then act.

Unlike normal times, they must do all of this very quickly.

Finally, having the ability to work under pressure in an unexpected or crisis situation and to exercise creative thinking in general are strategic advantages in times of crisis.

2) AGILITY

The ability to remain calm in addition to taking rapid action are essential components of solving a crisis. Flexibility, quick response to initial comments and quick adjustments in the course of action - these are the ingredients of effective crisis management.

Contrary to widespread myth, effective CEOs don't rush to act in times of crisis.

But, it's up to the CEO to be quick and agile enough in their decision-making to ensure that an effective course of action is put in place before things get out of hand.

However, even in situations where an unexpected and impromptu decision must be made, CEOs should remember that recruiting the most knowledgeable team members and colleagues remains an option. Any negative risks associated with making a quick decision during a time of crisis can be significantly reduced by remembering that you don't necessarily have to do it alone.

3) NEW LEADERSHIP 

The adaptive leader

Today more than ever, executives must adapt quickly and make decisions when necessary. The speed of change continues to accelerate. Executives must lead with transparency, consistency, take steps to create stability in the environment, and continue to provide quality services despite the level of disruptive change.

The adaptive leader develops skills to unlock people's potential, mobilize collective wisdom, and lead collaborative innovative solutions to drive change.

This new type of leader is the catalyst for real transformation in this decade.

Engage people's hearts and minds

In times of crisis, effective business leaders need to be even more attentive to ideas and how their collaborators feel. Through teamwork, CEOs seek and test solutions. In return, they provide the direction and authority their staff seeks. But they must also provide empathy and sympathy for ongoing challenges.

Good CEOs demonstrate this human touch by recognizing the unprecedented nature of the changing situation and working conditions. They make themselves more available to the organization, provide support and advice, and communicate with warmth and humor. Above all, they exhibit optimism and confidence that the crisis can be controlled by working together.

Moving to a new level of leadership requires the ability to influence others to achieve what is needed. Executive leadership involves facilitating people through risk and change; therefore, trust is vital to building the bridge.

No leader is an island and cultivating the power of networks will identify the people who will lead and execute the vision.

When executives do not invest in building and nurturing those relationships, there will be a lack of acceptance and commitment to bring the vision to reality.

True leaders must accept that risk taking is an indispensable part of their jobs, but they must also be mentally and physically prepared for the time of the crisis. Being ready to move when you least expect it and adopting a different pattern of behavior in the short term helps them on the day when unforeseen circumstances arise.

Leave no one behind

In times of crisis, leaders must connect, motivate and inspire others, and show true compassion. Humility and responsibility are key values that make the difference. Just reinforcing being humble simply means understanding your strengths and weaknesses and recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of others.

4) THE ABIITY TO ASSEMBLE A GREAT TEAM

Finding talent should always be a priority for a CEO. The best leaders choose to surround themselves with people as much or even more than themselves. One of the most important characteristics of a good leader is the ability to recognize valuable skills and positive qualities in others, and thus place these key people in roles where they will have the opportunity to shine.

It is increasingly crucial that modern CEOs can accurately assess the potential of others and build a team that will help the company succeed.

In times like today, the ability to find talent extends to the CEO's ability to constantly analyze and evaluate his teams to identify opportunities for improvement.

Digital changes in the workplace have already been proven to alter leadership roles by creating a greater focus on teamwork and new skills are needed. And considering the speed of changes in recent times, the result of this reevaluation of talent could result in the need for profile changes within teams, mainly on the agenda related to challenges in terms of leadership, learning ability and adaptation to change.

Make sure you are working with other leaders within the organization.

Successful leaders continually encourage the improvement and development of new skills and are committed to creating a safe place for growth, learning, where you will be constantly challenged and also challenge your collaborators.

5) COURAGE AND RISK TAKING

Courageous leaders inspire courage in others: courage to face complex situations; courage to carry out difficult conversations; and mainly courage to promote additional efforts.

A good example of courage in terms of leadership is the willingness, ability, and courage to confront others assertively and constructively. It is also the courage to deliver difficult messages.

Courage is often associated with taking risks, since courage is required to take them. A typical mistake is worrying about failure; committing insufficient resources or energy to guarantee success.

Having the courage to take calculated risks is a fundamental skill, since extremely cautious executives tend to wait too long until they are safe, and that, in business, could mean that it is too late.

According to a Harvard Business Review publication, emotion is always in the mix, and may even be an asset when making a courageous move, the following questions can help in logically calculating whether the time is right:

  • Why am I pursuing this now?
  • Am I contemplating a considered action or an impulsive one?
  • How long would it take to become better prepared? Is that too long?
  • What are the pros and cons of waiting a day, two days, a week or more?
  • What are the political obstacles? Can these be either removed or reduced in the near future?
  • Can I take steps now that will create a foundation for a courageous move later?
  • Am I emotionally and mentally prepared to take this risk?
  • Do I have the expertise, communication skills, track record, and credibility to make this work?

Spending too much time on any or all of these questions, of course, can lead you into Hamlet's trap, and the opportunity for courage may pass you by. At the same time, too little consideration can result in a rush jump. It is important to remember that courageous action in business is for the most part deliberative.

And without a doubt, choosing the right moment is the most difficult part of the "calculation of courage"; since a deep sensitivity to the environment and a lot of patience are needed.

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Questions?

Nathália Molteni

Associate Partner
T: T +56 (2) 2585-3230
E: [email protected]

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