Understanding the appropriate leadership style for crisis management

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As March rolled in, a couple of our team members fell sick and although it wouldn’t have been alarming under normal circumstances, the COVID-19 pandemic threw us into panic mode. The number of leave requests skyrocketed and in the midst of it all, performance and productivity levels were taking a hit.

Very early on in the crisis, I called a meeting with my managerial staff and team leaders to discuss our next steps. “We can work from home but we need to be sure that our data is safe,” one of my managers pitched in.

I feel like we are panicking for no reason. I don’t think taking our laptops and working from home is going to be efficient,” another team leader piped in.

At this point, we decided to slowly set up remote work practices so that we could be ready for whatever came our way. We came up with a list of priorities that needed to be attended to and created a crisis team to oversee progress on these tasks. Little did we know that we were right to be alarmed and make detailed plans.

Throughout this time, one thing that really stands out is how almost every person on my team turned to me for guidance. From the big matters to the small stuff – even things they normally did not need guidance in – I sensed plenty of anxiety radiating from my staff. I remember thinking that it would take just one slip on my part for panic to set it.

Global pandemics, domestic terrorism, cyber-attacks, white-collar crimes, and other catastrophic events are just a few of the potential crises companies face. As a leader, how can you manage each crisis in the best possible way? What are the traits you must possess to manage a crisis?

In the business world, the transformational leadership style provides a useful framework for a leader to operate within, during a crisis. While a leader can rely on his team to unpack details of a crisis and understand the impact it can have on their business, it’s up to them to define what success looks like for the corporation at the end of a crisis.

So, what makes the transformational leadership style the most-suited for these situations?

Taking the bull by its horns

One of the most important traits a leader with a transformational leadership style has is how they identify and perceive a crisis through their developed sense of self-awareness. Self-awareness helps a leader become conscious of their feelings and experiences, putting them in charge of the situation, instead of their emotions. This helps them objectively evaluate a crisis and take timely and appropriate action that leads to recovery.

What you thought was unimportant yesterday can become extremely important tomorrow. The entire global workforce witnessed this during the last three months as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world and the US hard. So, to continually frame the crisis, assess it, and discuss and agree on a process that will be effective in managing any crisis, you must possess self-awareness.

Transform communication through empathy

During a crisis, it’s important to constantly communicate not just with employees but also with customers, clients, partners, stakeholders, or any other party that is directly or indirectly affected by how the crisis affects your business.

It’s important to understand how they are affected and are coping with the situation to convey what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. It’s critical to keep your communication honest and transparent, so there’s greater accountability during difficult times.

Leaders with a transformational leadership style are able to convey empathy when they communicate, leading to more effective solutions to the traditional challenges encountered in the context of a crisis in which there’s bound to be lapses in delivery.

Do you have the right leadership style for a crisis scenario?

Transformational leadership has been practised by some of the most effective leaders in crisis situations. This is a leadership style where the leader understands the change that needs to occur, drives the organizational vision, and utilizes a team that is as equally committed to achieving this vision.

With Wired2Perform, you can identify if you have these traits with the help of our DNA behavior insights. You can even identify the traits you are lacking and understand what you can do to enhance your leadership style for what the future has to offer.

Author: Raghu Misra