Behavioral Traits of Leaders in a Crisis

Published on by Jason Rosenbaum, COO

It’s an exciting, yet scary time for leadership because all of us who call ourselves leaders, are leaders, or are looked at as leaders are about to get exposed. I want to say that does not mean I am glad about any impending crisis, or crises in general. Honestly, from the top on down, we’re all flying a bit blind into this particular abyss.

Jason Rosenbaum, CFO/COO, Crowd Favorite

Jason Rosenbaum
Crowd Favorite

A generation of leaders have come and gone since the tragedy of 9/11, and a new generation behind them hasn’t experienced anything like this before. Tell me if you felt exactly like this, or you were taking the same measures you are now in operating your business as you did when SARS or H1N1 or Ebola was the virus du jour. It’s ok...this is different.

But this is why we get paid the big bucks. This is why we have that title of C-whatever it is or Director, Manager, Senior this, that, or the other. The point is there is opportunity for leaders everywhere, and in a crisis that is pointed out even more so. I’ve seen a tremendous response in the last week from digital agency owners far and wide. Their preparedness, agility, and willingness to share information has been extraordinary.

I’m not going to lie though, a lot of those responses have contained conflicting information. But as a leader, one of your core responsibilities is to communicate clearly and effectively with your team, and in a situation like this, it is even more vital to disseminate true and accurate information to the best of your ability. Doing so in a measured and clear way to clients and colleagues alike will allow others to be at their best when it comes to what their key responsibilities, new and existing, will be going forward.

No one expects you to make every decision correctly, but they are correct in expecting you to have made some decisions before speaking to them. “Here’s the situation. Here’s what we know. Here’s what we’re going to do. All of this is subject to change as new information becomes available so be ready to receive communication from leadership.”

Research, Revise, and Repeat.

I’ve seen and heard a lot of discussion this week about Force Majeure. Is this pandemic covered? What are our obligations if…? How does everyone limit liability, while publicly offering up reassurance? And I get it, as leaders we’re risk managers. And all of us, clients and vendors alike, are looking for ways to mitigate risk during a very uncertain time. But in times like these, effective leaders find opportunity. Not in a dollars and cents sort of way, although potentially that could indirectly be a positive outcome, but rather opportunities to reinforce their core values, an opportunity to protect their team, an opportunity to strategize new paths forward that often create long term efficiencies and optimizations on the other side of the crisis. It’s a good time to take stock of what you have and who you are, and to audit those same values and systems and see how they hold up under stressful conditions.

It’s during a crisis we get our report card as leaders: How well prepared are we? How do our processes and strategies react in different environments? The answers and results to these questions present teachable moments, as there is always more to learn in the hard times than in the so-called “good” times.

Anyone in your company can be a leader if they communicate accurately, effectively, and frequently. If they are decisive based on information at hand but are willing to alter those decisions based on new, real-time information, and if they are fearless about learning from their mistakes on the fly. Some of you are required to be leaders and to do these things. In this role you’re not a developer, or a designer, or a project manager, or brand specialist, or digital marketer, or Sales. You’re a manager. A director. A C-whatever it is. An owner.

You’re a leader...and you’re up.