Leadership in Crisis. Lonely at the top.
Strategies to handle leadership in crisis
Our expectations of our leaders are significant, but very often we give little thought to what help they need to cope. Now, more than ever we need healthy leadership in crisis
The global pandemic has created one of the biggest challenges in decades impacting the way we live and work. It has disrupted every aspect of our lives: from financial and social, to health, wellness, and workplace structures. Now, more than ever we need our leaders to be in a good place at a time of crisis. Our expectations of them are significant, but very often we give little thought to how they cope. Many of them suggest that life can be lonely at the top and they feel isolated.
At times like this everyone in an organisation looks to their leaders for guidance, clarity, and a vision for the future. We want leaders who can create a community and give us both physical and psychological security. We need a sense of purpose, courage, and resilience to tackle the problems that face us all. Layer on compassion, empathy, good communication and practical solutions, the pressure on our leaders is huge. What we forget that our leaders may also be in crisis themselves.
Staying calm under pressure when confronted with totally unknown circumstances is a significant skill particularly when all our primal stress responses kick in. Even those at the top might find a session binging on Netflix an attractive option. But most don’t have the luxury.
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Business leaders can underestimate how much their employees look to them for information. But they also underestimate how much care they need to take of themselves to deal with unpredictable events, economic volatility, and unrelenting stress. Every executive I have worked with in the past weeks feels that the year has taken a huge toll on their physical and mental wellbeing.
5 strategies to handle leadership in crisis
Recognizing and owning your own knowledge gaps and whether your own coping strategies are working for you is critical. This will help not just your own resilience, but that of your team. When your emotional state is unstable you don’t process anything well. Having a good handle on your stress triggers helps you manage yourself and interact better with others. Stress can be a component of “brain fog” which is not in your head. It’s a condition that has become prevalent during lockdown, also known as “COVID Brain.” In a recent poll I conducted on LinkedIn 88% feel they have experienced this phenomenon.
2. Build a support network
Make sure you surround yourself with a strong “Circle of Trust” reliable contacts whether colleagues, reports or network connections who can act as accountability partners, “brainstormers” and confidantes when you need them.
3. Practise self-care
Your own well-being is more important than ever. Make sure are doing the basics right: sleeping, eating healthily, exercising, and setting boundaries. When you take care of yourself it is much easier to take care of others and allow them to take care of themselves. Set alerts on your phone to remind yourself to switch activity, move, take a break or simply go outside. Try and reduce the amount of time you spend on your phone. Device addiction is also real and can damage our most intimate relationships.
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4. Own what you don’t know
In an era when leaders are expected to be all-knowing and omnipresent, it can be hard to say you don’t know something. Owning a lack of knowledge with authority is a rare skill which involves attentive listening and being comfortable with ambiguity. It is rooted in knowledge of self and being confident in your skills and value. No one knows anything very much about this current situation and we are all pooling together our collective experience to try and make sense out of something new. It’s also important to bust the B.S. and explore all options before sharing a view that has no credibility.
5. Ask for help
Recognise the early warning signs of being out of your depth. Don’t brush them to one side. Loopback to Point 1 – this is why understanding your stress triggers are so important. Ask for help, whether a coach, counsellor or a doctor. Organisations recognise the importance of well-being programs in theory but only a very small number are making action plans. Don’t be that leader. Protect your own mental health and that of your team if you are in a position to take that decision. If not campaign for well being programs within your organisation.
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