As leaders we face two types of crisis: routine and novel. The routine crisis events are those that we can easily plan for and have procedures and policies to mitigate damage. Novel crisis events, such as the COVID-19 event that we are currently experiencing are less easy to plan for and can have far reaching effects.
The Wall Street Journal published an article in 2015 that provides sage advice regarding leadership in novel crisis situations. The article, written by Deloitte, suggests 5 operating principles for managing the unexpected:
- Lead decisively: Effective turnarounds are not made out of micro-incrementalism, but of very bold and decisive acts
- Continuously frame the crisis: Be flexible to embrace new information as it comes along. If new analysis suggests a remake of the original plan, remake the plan.
- Actively communicate: Control the message by designating a crisis manager to be the sole spokesperson and to be the source of honest, consistent information.
- Be ready for the unexpected: Under extreme pressure, the crisis manager should understand that individuals may act differently than during normal circumstances, and that the usual organizational roles may not apply during a crisis.
- Drive toward actionable intelligence: In the midst of a crisis, leadership must often navigate confusing data and intelligence. It’s important, therefore, to cast a wide net, as crucial information can come from a range of sources.
There is also the importance of looking after your people: “Crisis leadership also means having empathy for the people affected and having the ability to ask very pointed questions of the right people at the right time to quickly identify the issues.”
The full article can be found here: https://deloitte.wsj.com/riskandcompliance/2015/07/06/crisis-leadership-five-principles-for-managing-the-unexpected/