Every person should be well trained in how to respond to an emergency. This is a skill that for all intents and purposes starts with a child’s first fire drill. Knowing where to go and what to do when your surroundings become confusing, disorienting or unfamiliar is one of the keys to avoiding unnecessary problems, being safe and navigating the incident successfully.
Leading in a crisis requires all these skills plus one more, and that is leadership itself. How do you lead others through difficulty? What do you say and what should you do? The advice itself might sound simple, but if it were easy everyone would be doing it. Here are some things you should consider before you find yourself in charge when the next challenge occurs.
Public relations executives are fond of recommending their bosses “get ahead” of whatever problem they are facing. This advice is really a euphemism for going from defense to offense. Reacting to a problem is the fastest way to make it worse. The only way to avoid or neutralize a problem is to act rather than react, and that means taking action and doing so quickly.
Action cannot wait, as every moment that passes without some kind of step forward on your part makes the problem potentially bigger and as a consequence, harder to solve. Think of a structure fire. There is a reason fire trucks don’t wait at traffic lights.
The advice above about playing offense is just as important as the time factor. You must take decisive action. This is one of the primary responsibilities of leadership. When others see a leader doing something constructive, they are far more likely to join in and help out. When they see a leader hesitant or slow to react, they are far more likely to panic or work at cross-purposes with each other.
Deal With Facts
One of the most common responses to a crisis situation is to wildly speculate about all the elaborate flavors of doom lurking at the end of the incident. This serves no purpose at all. The key to any competent solution to a crisis is facts gathered quickly and used by a leader to formulate a plan of action. Chasing assumptions, supposition or unsubstantiated and imagined realities saps time and energy from the things that will lead to a solution.
Challenges are a part of leadership. Successfully facing and defeating those challenges is what separates great leaders from mere supervisors.