How to Lead in a Crisis

In times of crisis, people look for leadership.

A leader is someone with a plan, the competence to deliver on that plan, and the trustworthiness to earn the benefit of the doubt from others when things get tough.

Calm is the sign of strong leadership.

When a patient collapses from a heart attack, that patient and his/her family are having a crisis.

Emergency medical technicians have a name for such an event.

It’s called “just another Tuesday.”

This is the idea that’s taught to emergency responders.

Just because everyone else is having a crisis doesn’t mean you are having one.

Remember your training. Do your job. Be a professional.

It’s “just another Tuesday.”

Now, is this statement actually true, empirically?

I have no idea. I also think it doesn’t really matter.

You see, this is the idea that so many people in the emergency responder community have been taught and led to believe.

In other words, we have so bought into the idea that, in a crisis, we are the calm ones. We are the ones who know what to do. We are the ones who can be trusted to get the job done.

In short, we were “sold” on this powerful idea.

Crisis management is really about selling your idea to others and getting them to participate and contribute in some way.

If you run a company where sales are down significantly, you’re selling your staff on why they should continue working for you. You do this by sharing your plan for navigating the difficult situation and explaining the vital role they play in that plan.

This is sales.

If you’re running a country that’s coming off of a shelter-in-place order (a.k.a. lockdown/quarantine), you need to sell your citizens on the additional precautions you need them to take, to preserve much of the safety of a lockdown without so much of the physical restrictions.

This too is sales.

Whether you lead from a position of formal authority or propose a course of action to your superiors, you’re in sales.

The ability to sell your ideas is especially vital in times of great change and crisis.

This occurs for a simple reason.

While there is high uncertainty as to what to do next, there is generally a consensus that the status quo really stinks and is not tolerable.

If you are in a burning building with flames coming toward you, you will be open-minded about any reasonable proposed course of action, as any option is going to be better than just standing there doing nothing.

The people you influence are standing in the middle of a burning building.

They are highly motivated to consider any reasonable idea and they are ready to make whatever changes are needed to achieve a better outcome.

The key to being influential in a crisis is to be able to effectively sell your ideas.

There are many keys to being effective in selling your ideas.

The first and foremost insight is to recognize that you are, in fact, in a “sales” role.

You are either selling others on what you want them to do (that benefits both them and you), or someone else is selling your audience on a different course of action (that does not benefit you).

If selling yourself and your ideas does not come naturally or intuitively to you, I encourage you to learn more through my program on How to Sell Your Ideas in Everyday Life. It will be available soon. To be notified when the program is available and receive my articles about selling in everyday life, submit the form below.

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