Talent-Leadership-Culture (TLC) Ep 9: Leadership During Crisis

ATC is proud to partner with Cendea to present the series, “Talent-Leadership-Culture (TLC)”. This blog series addresses the questions and gives insight to the art of finding the RIGHT tech leader to hire at the director level and above. Thank you to our experts for sharing their knowledge with the tech community.

We’re experiencing the pandemic Coronavirus.  Pandemic, from Greek words meaning “all” and “people,” is a disease epidemic that has spread across a vast region, for instance, multiple continents, or worldwide.  It can be devastating, the Black Plague pandemic in the 14th century killed somewhere between 75 to 200 million people.

Leadership has to step up to mitigate these enormous ramifications, yet each decision has its own set of consequences.  Ignore or delay doing anything, and it spreads entirely out of control.  Treat it lightly, and it continues mostly out of control.  Take more aggressive actions and hope to slow it down.

Businesses can feel like they are in the same scenario.  The crisis is “pandemic” to their “world” because everything is fighting survival!  What should leaders do when their company is in crisis?

The situation is dire, yet it seems so obvious.  The problem lies in timing and leadership.  When do you have valid, useful information as a decision-maker, and are you claiming the answer was obvious in hindsight?

Leadership in the crisis mindset

You can be a great leader in good times, perhaps even in bad times, yet fail to succeed in crisis.  It is hard not to have that deer in the headlights look where you just freeze.  Maybe that fear makes you want to jump ship, but a truly great leader is out to protect their ship with their people on board.

Here’s what a great leader does in crisis:

Sacrifices their time:  They have a dedication and passion for their people and won’t stop until they have done everything that they can do to find the right solutions to the problem.  People see this and put their trust in that leader.  This sacrifice creates the confidence the team needs to follow them.

They are a rock and don’t panic:  Leaders don’t wait until they have all the facts but must evaluate the situation with the best information possible and adjust if necessary as new information is known.  People want to follow leaders who aren’t easily shaken.  Leaders need to show that they can make decisions and are open to direction adjustments based on new information.  Everyone is watching, and if their leader abandons ship, then they will too.

Makes things happen quickly:  Decisions happen, but it is clear that they’re not merely out of reaction mode.  They gather reliable information, listen to proven advisors, and move forward.  Remember, most people want to follow, but most of those will panic if there is not a person making decisions quickly, thus leaving room for rumors to fly.

Communicates clear and honest expectations:  People like to be included and in the know.  Rumors happen when communication doesn’t happen, or people believe they are not told the truth.  A great leader also does not overpromise.  Open communication helps people commit to their leader and perform the tasks necessary to help the company solve the crisis – even when it is down to survival mode.

Keep their cool:  Leaders become the anchor that people need when they aren’t in reactionary mode or showing a false face where people feel tricked.  They recognize that their world is depending on them.  Their team, once again, can survive the storm better when they have a leader showing the calm during chaos.

The Coronavirus is a pandemic that most companies will have to fight

Apple has significant supply chains in China, and this pandemic has beaten down their stock.  Some employees may lose their jobs, but with billions of dollars in the bank, company survival is probably not their driving question.  However, the majority of the world is small to medium businesses, most likely without a similar ratio bank account stockpiled.

Survival will affect each company differently, and more than likely have some negative ramifications.  Some companies may not be affected by work-from-home mandates, whereas others could be devastated.  There are many unknowns because we’ve never experienced anything like this in modern-day history before now.

Leadership, whether at an Apple type company or an SMB, will drive the best success for each company.  They need to inspire confidence in their people with these skills to make the best of things.  These skills are essential for maximizing success, but of course, the leader’s business skills are very critical in knowing what to do and finding ways with their team to solve the situation.  The key is that you need your team to discover and execute the best-laid plans.

The strength of a company is in its Talent-Leadership-Culture, where you, as the leader, do everything that you can to help maximize success.  Great leadership opens the door for everyone to step up.  This success can allow a company to come out of a crisis stronger.

Cendea has over 25 years of securing great talent for great opportunities.  Please feel free to call us at 512.219.6000. Wade Allen, President & CEO, x101, or Jim Bledsoe, Senior Partner, x121.