Publisher’s Note: CUInsight is hosting our first Mini-Con of the year on Wednesday, February 17th titled, LEAD. We hope you’ll join us to hear more from our keynote speaker India Gary-Martin! Register here.
As we begin 2021, the need to lead through crisis is emerging as a competency that seems here to stay. While there have been periods in modern history when there has been significant change and turmoil, the compounded nature of the crises in 2020 has led us to an enhanced profile around what leadership looks like for existing leaders and an emerging set of requirements for those in the pipeline.
Resilience, empathy, agility, ambiguity and uncertainty took center stage as leaders tried to navigate the multitude of issues that arose and continue to arise. While the shock of the events of 2020 has passed to some extent, the implications of those events will continue, at least for the immediate future. Working from home (where possible), staff isolation, illness and in some cases death – against a backdrop of political unrest, racial reckoning and uncertain economic outcomes is testing the fabric of modern leadership and whether or not we’d been focusing on the right competencies at all.
While most seasoned leaders certainly understand in theory and even in practice what it takes to navigate crisis, the past year put every leadership skill to the test. For those who are comfortable embracing change, there is always opportunity in crisis. Organizations who have relationships in their DNA and have the ability to take a long-term view were able to leverage 2020 to both broaden and deepen customer relationships planting seeds for greater CLV (Customer Lifetime Value). While the returns aren’t immediate, customers will remember how they were made to feel by their service providers at a time when for many, the walls seem to be coming down around them. There are few opportunities to deepen customer relationships in such a profound way and short period of time.
People leadership is at the center of leading through crisis. Our stakeholders, staff and customers require visible leadership in ways that have never been more significant. While it is certainly the case that the pace of change makes it difficult for leaders to respond to and have the answers to every event – people will forgive a wrong decision but find it harder to forgive indecision. Aside from the plethora of competencies leaders must access, being decisive is one of the single most important at a time when people are teetering on the edge of uncertainty. This is particularly difficult when leaders themselves may be experiencing personal uncertainty around the same environmental factors that are challenging their stakeholders. However, keeping the train on track and making decisions with the information that you have in that moment, is a beacon at a time when there is little certainty all around. It is okay to say that you are making a decision with the data points that you know right now – but steering the ship during the storm despite being rudderless is what all good captains must do.
The great part about all of this is the emergence of a resilience muscle that many didn’t know they had. At a time in our history, when everything is on-demand and patience wears thin for outcomes that may not be immediate, this era is a lesson in patience and resilience. The qualities that were once the bedrock of leadership evolved as our society evolved and were lost amongst dated leadership models that are now proving to be gifts to those who understand and leverage them. Unprecedented events don’t always require unprecedented responses. Often, the answers are right in front of you. Rarely have you ever heard of a captain steering a ship during a storm alone, if you rely on your crew to do what they’re good at during crisis and focus on steering the ship, you’ll make it to calmer waters. That is what leading through crisis is all about.
To hear India Gary-Martin’s keynote presentation on “Leading in the New Normal” join CUInsight for LEAD, our first Mini-Con of 2021 on Wednesday, February 17th. Register yourself and a colleague here.