Navigating Times of Crisis as a Leader: Advice from Jim & Barry

Mar 20, 2020

These six pieces of advice come from Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s eBook, Turning Adversity into Opportunity. To download the entire eBook for free between now and April 30, 2020, click here and enter Promo Code: FREE9

Over the last few weeks, as the COVID-19 crisis has moved across the world with increasing speed and upended life (and business), we’ve been reminded of the importance of leaders at all levels stepping up to the plate. To help leaders fully engage people and strengthen their resilience in uncertain times, we revisited what leaders do when they are at their personal best. We identified six common strategies you should incorporate into your leadership practices to be successful in facing adversity.

  • Broaden the Context: View what’s happening from a historical perspective. Doing so provides an understanding of how others have dealt with challenging times. Research shows that people who first reflect on their past during stressful circumstances and tell positive stories about handling hardships are more effective in dealing with adversity. They also rebound more quickly.
  • Defy the Verdict: People want to know the truth—even if it’s bad news. If you want your team to respond with fierce determination during periods of adversity, you need to increase your level of communication about what is really going on. Exemplary leaders acknowledge reality, but do not dwell on the threat. See change as a challenge and move quickly to mobilize resources to defy the verdict. 
  • Fully Commit to What’s Important: To gain alignment between people and values during tough times, exemplary leaders make certain everyone understands the purpose that guides decisions.
  • Take Charge: Natraj Iyer, Product Manager at eBay, reminds us “to seize the moment and be the leaders we can be. Each and every one of us has a choice to be that leader.” As a leader, you have to respond assertively to moments of trial and adversity.
  • Engage Others: Collaboration and trust among your team are essential for building the capacity needed to get through difficulties. Neuroscientists are discovering that our brains are wired to connect. People engaged with one another are motivated to strengthen their relationships with each other, resolve interpersonal conflicts, and find win-win solutions.
  • Show You Care: Jane Binger, who has been responsible for leadership development and education for years at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford University, says of her colleagues, “They want to know that I value them. That I think they are doing a great job. That I am not taking them or their contributions for granted. This doesn’t require any grand, over-the-top actions.” Showing you care is personal. But, if you want people to hang in there when times are tough and continue to give it their all, let them know—regularly—that they are valued.

Adapting these six leadership rules will enable you and your organization to take the initiative and move forward in navigating these extraordinary times. Remember that you can do this and you’re not alone.


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