When situations are uncertain and unpredictable, both basic human instinct and management training can cause leaders to delay action and downplay the threat until the situation becomes clear. Often, delaying and downplaying is done out of fear of taking the wrong steps or from the desire to ease anxiety. Many leaders have learned living through a pandemic for the last year that behaving in this manner, even if it is with good intentions, can mean quickly falling behind in addressing a crisis.
There have been many examples of people stepping up and leading with courage in the last year. But what exactly is required of leader in a time of crisis? What can we learn from them?
A recent article from Harvard Business Review outlined 4 lessons for leaders in a novel crisis:
- Act with urgency
- Communicate with transparency
- Respond productively to missteps
- Engage in constant updating
It takes a lot for a leader to fight against the natural human reaction to a crisis, which is to move forward with caution and delay action, but it can be done. At the core of all the lessons – being decisive, honest, and able to iterate and update – is one truth: great leaders lead with empathy.