C-Suite Advisory

In Crisis, leaders are not made. Leaders are revealed.

F.E.A.R. = Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. – A Wise Person

Some will run. Some will rise. True leadership emerges in crises. Age, stage, position, nor experience is a clear determinant of who in your organization will fall into either camp.

Circumstances we have never experienced before require us to do things we have never done before and act in ways we never have before. We all feel fear at some point. How we react is solely up to us. The timeless leadership qualities revealed in the face of fear are signs of great leaders.

Under normal conditions, leadership skills are honed through experience, time, training, and natural ability. However, in unprecedented crises such as we see now due to the virus pandemic we shall not speak of in this piece, experience, and training take a back seat to the revelation of natural leadership abilities we all have that instinctually show up.

Be vigilant of leaders in your organization who emerge as their unique strengths are revealed in uncertain times. The future of leadership may not be based on the models of the past. Those who not only survive but thrive during extraordinary events will serve any business well.

Here are four ways leadership superpowers are revealed in your organization:

  1.   Social Distancing Does Not Equal Human Distancing
    Never thought I would say it, but I miss handshaking or even a good fist bump or high five every now and again. As the saying goes, you never miss what you’ve got until it’s gone. Perhaps the elbow bump will be the new cool way of greeting each other. Or, let’s make it old school and simply wave.
    There are many questions and not many answers right now. One key question is how the necessity of social distancing of today will affect us in the future. Will absence make the heart grow fonder? Or will it be a case of out of sight out of mind? Perhaps we will experience more isolating side effects from lack of physical presence, or a deeper appreciation for more options to connect will strengthen.
    When you lose one sense, the other four become increasingly significant to compensate for the loss. The same concept applies to business. While we do not always know how crises will change us, leaders tap into an innovative mindset and embody creative connection.  CEOs, employees, customers, and even shareholders alike benefit from human interaction in many forms. It makes no difference if you are working elbow to elbow or remotely in different countries. The human connection is essential.
    Leaders understand that regardless of the environment, the business experience is truly the human experience.
  2. Move from Reactive to Proactive
    Leaders address current needs with a vision of a future filled with opportunity. It may seem counterintuitive to say, ‘I know the world is falling down all around us, but hey, look at the bright side. At least we’ll go down in history as the generation who lived through an actual science fiction movie plot. How cool would that be?!’.
    Nonetheless, as uncertain as our times are, it is imperative to exude optimism and get excited about opportunities to think and act differently, adopting better ways to serve humanity personally and professionally. Regardless of our current conditions, opportunities abound. In many cases, it is not until circumstances necessitate a change are we forced to think past a ‘this is how we have always done it’ mindset to ‘the possibilities are endless’.
    Leaders reject the victim mindset of being at the effect of something and focus on what can be controlled and influenced to create new space.
  3. Honesty is the Best Policy
    We learned this in kindergarten, and it still holds true.
    When the pathway forward is unclear, it is okay not to have all the answers. Leaders may be aware of the questions, but also know there are many directions to take. Panic is not an effective response. Let’s unclutch the pearls. The way forward may not be easy, but it can all be figured out.
    The point is not to sugarcoat the challenges before you. Amid unusual occurrences, it is important to be forthright with ourselves and others about thoughts and emotions we are having. Non-punitive pragmatic and open conversations within organizations and teams are essential in acknowledgment of where you are now as a foundation for where you may want to be. Holding time and space for others in your organization to express concerns creates trust and a bond that is needed to push forward.
    Leaders believe that vulnerability is an asset and should be normalized.
  4. Humor and Gratitude
    With press conferences, quarantines, and a ring-the-alarm atmosphere, it is very easy to become overwhelmed, fearful, and inescapably solemn.
    Like many comedians, finding humor in dire situations gives respite, creates optimism, and at the very least, puts to work those facial and stomach muscles with a good guffaw. With a mandated, more sedentary lifestyle, we need to take advantage of any and all opportunities to exercise. I’m just saying.
    Similar to humor, practicing gratitude puts unconventional situations in perspective. It’s easy to complain about the obvious and forget that there are still many things to be grateful for as well.

It is yet to be seen how our current environment will change us as a collective. Leadership revealed in unsettling periods may showcase seemingly unique characteristics beneficial to the survival of any organization.

Our greatness lies in our power to serve others. While this too shall pass, leadership lessons learned will last.

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Kelli Wingo
Kelli Wingo is the founder of War Room Coaching focusing on personal branding and entrepreneurship culture. She is also the ounder of Spiryt In Motion, a movement dedicated to dismantling the oppression of limiting beliefs. Kelli is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.