Crisis Leadership through COVID-19

Whilst we are in the midst of a global crisis that we are all struggling through, many of us will be looking for any distraction to keep ourselves sane! I have taken a steer from Viktor Frankl. During WWII, Frankl suffered at the hands of the Nazis while he was held prisoner in Auschwitz. In his book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, he tells the reader how psychoanalysis of fellow inmates and guards, allowed him to keep a sense of hope and purpose. Despite not suffering anywhere near what Frankl endured, in my own little way, I’ve tried to keep mentally stimulated in lockdown by observing leadership in many areas of society.

The last few months have been a fascinating time in terms of examples of leadership in all sectors. Leadership styles, strategies and actions have never been under the public microscope as much as today. In leading through a crisis, as a headteacher, I believe there are three key aspects of communication and action that lead to confident commitment from your business, team, school or even nation.

All the C’s

3 Cs

Calmness

Leaders rise above the noise of the crowd to keep everyone focussed on short, medium and long term goals. In my school setting, this was getting people safe and then supported. There can be lots of distress relating to the pandemic and anxiety caused by widely shared opinions on schools and teachers. Our next step is the safe and gradual, phased return of more students. I won’t let us panic about dates. We don’t need to know the date to make our plan. If we clear on our plan, calmness can reign as we know we are prepared for the next steps. Calmness can be represented by a compassionate tone in emails, an understanding approach to personal issues and ‘putting first things first’, in the words of Steven Covey. That is, just doing what needs to be done, not what the world and his dog is telling you needs to be done.

Consistency

Those at the front, create trust through actions that are underpinned by clear belief systems. When we share values and beliefs that are not applied in tough moments, we risk the trust and respect of our group. In turn, this can create a power vacuum which threatens the stability of an organisation. I’ve three clear values that are gospel based but in all of our lives, ‘Love, faith and hope’. I can demonstrate love this through care and compassion which is unrelenting and trusting of my colleagues. I have faith in those who I work with that they too will want to do the right thing. On that basis, our approach is based on the 95% who are on-board so that policies are not rigidly prescriptive in an attempt to manage the 5% who do not act in a way which is honest and supportive of their peers. Their peers will ordinarily do the heavy lifting for you if they feel they’re being let down. Finally, we hold tight to that hope that we will see better days. We talk about hope, we action hope through plans for the future and we share hope in the positivity of our communications. Whatever your values as a leader, they’ll never be more important that than right now, stick to them!

Clarity

The networks our teams are a part of will require guidance and information. Clear communications can bring people along with you in order that they can feel a part of your school, business and sporting family. Take people with you through a confident clarity that explains the decisions you are taking, be open to feedback and really listen. Show people you care about their views by answering calls, responding to emails and that clarity will foster a cohesive culture. Then, once you have made your plan or your decision based on all the best information and opinions, stick to it and believe in yourself.

The result… Confident Commitment

It is my firm belief through the ridiculous reading I do into this subject and my own experience, that confident commitment from your team is the product of communication which is clear, consistent and calm. When you are value driven, with a clear purpose, utilising the thoughts of all, then you widen the arms of your team. A confident commitment is a type of energy that we can create at home with our own families. It is a sense that despite differences of opinion here and there, differing belief systems and any other independent variations, we’re all in this together and we’ll all get out of this together. Confident commitment exudes from a team that is valued and trusted. That energy that then only requires a subtle guiding light and two hands on the wheel to garner confidence and commitment. Those two hands, that guiding light, will be you in the strongest of storms.

These are not easy times for anyone. I hope we can all take time to talk, listen and reflect. If we do that, we can operate as teams in every area of the country that inspire confident commitment toward a brighter future.

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