C-Suite Insider

View Crisis as an Opportunity, not as a Threat

View crisis as an opportunity! It sounds strange, right? A crisis is an opportunity for leaders to prove their leadership mettle and strength. Usually, leaders are noticed only during tough times, not during normal times.  When you take Abraham Lincoln, the crises got the best out of him and most of the American presidents look up to Lincoln whenever they encounter leadership challenges.

Similarly, Winston Churchill proved his best during the Second World War but failed in peacetime. He had an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership potential during the war period and led the UK and allied forces to victory. However, he was a disaster during peacetime.  Boris Yeltsin handled the army coup successfully by facing it head-on when USSR was transforming due to ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’ under the leadership of Michael Gorbachev.

Similarly, Rudy Giuliani proved his leadership stamina during the 9/11 terrorist attacks as the Mayor of New York.  He led from the front and managed the crisis successfully. He was not taken seriously by people until then.  After successfully blowing the crisis, he won laurels globally.  Time Magazine honored him as the Person of the Year in 2001 and Queen Elizabeth II bestowed onto him an honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Likewise, several leaders demonstrated their leadership potential during tough times, especially, during crises and excelled as heroes. Perhaps these leaders themselves did not recognize their hidden strength until they were pushed to the corner or, maybe, they kept their leadership potential lying dormant within themselves.

Usually, people remain in their comfort zones during normal times. Some people have fire in their bellies and may not get opportunities to demonstrate their leadership strength. Only when they come out of their comfort zones and enter into effective zones, they will be able to tap their hidden potential and prove themselves as great leaders.

A crisis is something unpleasant and untoward incident occurring either due to the forces within the internal environment or external environment. It is both expected and unexpected.  It is expected because people feel it brewing within the organization when things are neglected or kept pending for a very long period.  At times when conflicts are left unresolved, they become crises. On the other hand, a crisis is unexpected because things happen outside the organizational environment especially, earthquakes, accidents, and natural calamities, etc.

The real leaders emerge during the storm.  And real leadership skills emerge during crises. The leaders who fail to rise to the occasion during the crisis will rarely succeed as leaders.  A crisis is not a threat but an opportunity to test oneself and help others make a difference through their potential and performance.

Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”  Similarly, entrepreneurs can spot opportunities out of threats. For instance, when the Mexican economy was in ruins in 1982 Carlos Slim saw opportunities and invested heavily during that downturn and reaped huge returns finally.  Likewise, we have several examples where leaders viewed crises as opportunities, not as threats.

Leaders must be prepared to face the crisis as it may hit in the shape of terrorist attacks, natural calamity, negligence within the system, industrial accidents. Failure to blow the crisis may damage the organization’s credibility and goodwill.  Here is a ten-step process to handle crises effectively:

  1. Believe in yourself. Only when you believe in yourself you will be able to build confidence among others.
  2. Be an optimist that the crisis can be handled effectively. Having a negative attitude or approach or any room for pessimism will do more harm than good for people.
  3. Be courageous. Demonstrate your courage to face the crisis through both oral and body language. Only when you demonstrate your courage you will be able to instill confidence among your people.
  4. Be confident and set an example to influence and inspire others.
  5. Look at the root of the issue broadly and find out solutions and attack it systematically.
  6. Communicate your resolve and plan to resolve the crisis effectively.
  7. Create certainty out of uncertainty.
  8. Build a strong team quickly that can stand by you and roll out your plans accordingly to attack the crisis head-on.
  9. Be persistent and follow-up with multiple plans to handle the crisis.  Develop Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C within your mind quickly as you cannot expect things to go smoothly as per your plan. Anticipate challenges from the external environment and move on.  Above all, be realistic.
  10.  Take care of the people first and then property. Taking the wrong priorities will prove to be counterproductive.

Whenever you are confronted with a crisis be part of the solution, not the problem.  Of course, it is very hard to remember in the heat of the moment! Upon hit with a crisis take a deep breath, look at the problem closely, focus on the big picture, search for alternative solutions, shortlist the best one, implement and execute effectively.  Do remember that all decisions may not deliver fruitful outcomes. Be prepared for failures.

Accept the fact that crises are part of life and we must be prepared all-time to face it.  Only when we develop such a psychological mindset, we will be able to take crises in our stride and be able to manage it successfully.

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Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.
Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with forty years of experience and the author of fifty books including the award-winning See the Light in You: Acquire Spiritual Powers to Achieve Mindfulness, Wellness, Happiness, and Success (Waterside Productions; January 16, 2020). He is a C-Suite advisor and global keynote speaker. He brings a strategic eye and long-range vision given his multifaceted professional experience including military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He trains a new generation of leaders through leadership education and publications. His vision is to build one million students as global leaders by 2030. He has the vision to share his knowledge freely with one billion people globally. He advocates gender equality globally (#HeForShe). He was ranked #1 Thought Leader and Influencer in HR globally by Thinkers360. He invests his time in authoring books and blogging on executive education, learning, and leadership. Most of his work is available free of charge on his four blogs including Vision 2030: One Million Global Leaders. He is a prolific author and a dynamic, energetic, and inspirational leadership speaker. Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.