It would be surprising if anyone on the planet with access to any form of communication (old or new) didn’t know about the coronavirus. We have news of it popping up every few seconds as messages unfold about closures, cancellations, and other alerts regarding the spread.
I respect the need to be cautious, proactive and vigilant. Many of the gatherings and events I was scheduled to attend have been suspended, postponed or canceled outright. There have even been moments where I was part of the decision to cancel something. I get it.
However, I am not convinced I’ve seen perfect examples of leadership demonstrated in every announcement or bulletin. I’ve seen supposed leaders take a podium and simply spread fear and concern.
In the face of a global pandemic, as it is now called, leaders in both public and private sectors need to stay calm. Calm is a tricky proposition for a leader.
On one hand, you should have your own personal concerns about what is going on. If you are high enough in an organization, you might be leading a major project team. Having a totally external force like COVID-19 interrupt your plans is frustrating at best. Again, I don’t want to sound irresponsible or insensitive but hang with me a bit.
When a leader begins to gain momentum, the last thing you want to have happen is for something to break the cycle. Especially something that comes from outside your organization.
We Need Calm
Calm needs to be the focus. Here are four key principles to think about during a crisis.
C is for Clarity. Simplify your messages. Speak clearly and intentionally, thoughtfully. Immediately respond to those who seem unclear after you communicated.
People will need clear communication about your new expectations under new and perhaps stressful situations.
A is for Action. You still need to act. If your decision has not been formed, say so. But don’t wait too long. This virus situation is a fast-moving event. Be ready to respond as information changes.
L is for Leadership. Perhaps it should be obvious, but some may get busy and not be intentional about their leadership wheelhouse.
Dig deep in your leadership tool kit to make ready the best tools you have to guide, direct, inspire, and influence during troubling times. People need us now.
M is for mean it. Be sincere. Don’t rely on cliche and platitude. Stay connected with your people. I mean emotionally connected. Up-level your empathetic listening. Hear people out.
Be relevant and relatable so that people maintain (or increase) their trust in your leadership.
Forget About It
We also need to forget some things. A client from long ago posted these wonderful reminders. He’s a very accomplished CEO and leader in the mortgage finance industry. His name is Bill Dallas. Here are his thoughts.
1. Forget About Yourself; Focus on Others. You will become a source of confidence (and calm) for everyone else.
2. Forget About Your Commodity; Focus on Your Relationships. Every time you strengthen a relationship, the viability of you are selling will increase.
3. Forget About the Sale; Focus on Creating Value. Most people don’t like being sold at the best of times.
4. Forget About Your Losses; Focus on Your Opportunities.
5. Forget About Your Difficulties; Focus on Your Progress.
6. Forget About the “Future”; Focus on Today.
7. Forget About Who You Were; Focus on Who You Can Be.
8. Forget About Events; Focus on Your Responses.
9. Forget About What’s Missing; Focus on What’s Available.
10. Forget About Your Complaints; Focus on Your Gratitude.
The Leadership Premium
In times of crisis and concern, leadership value rises to a premium. You, as a leader, must be the one to help others survive. Encourage those around you.
No need to argue the merits of a decision someone else has made. Yet if your people are beginning to act in extremes, encourage them to reconsider. Lead toward calm.