There is no doubt 2020 has thrown huge challenges at leaders and humans. In Australia it started with the most devastating bush fires in history followed by a pandemic that descended on us within weeks throwing us into a health crisis and an economic crisis at the same time. Every life has been touched by this in some form and we are still grappling with uncertainty and fear.
I reached out to my clients and networks early to offer my help and support as leaders were struggling with navigating through this mess. We spoke about mental health, stress, rapid change, pivoting, agility, the New Normal, working from home, leading remote teams, restructures, leading through and out of the crisis…! Leaders had to build resilience, have tough conversations and guide their teams and organisations whilst facing nothing but constant uncertainty. What I have witnessed has not only surprised me but also made me really proud of the people I work with. Leaders have truly stepped up and shown real Courageous Leadership.
I am working with on organisation in Prague who organize international study tours to university students. As you can imagine, the traditional business of travel disintegrated quickly in early 2020. But what the organisation has managed to move around led by their inspiring leader and leadership team is a prime example of courageous leadership. Within a short amount of time the team identified how shift their services online and build a whole portfolio of new programs and solutions. To me speed, confidence, sensitivity and flexibility is what drove this turnaround. It’s called Courageous Leadership.
Speed: make decisions fast with the information you have
Confidence: be confident about the decisions you have made
Sensitivity: be sensitive in the way you communicate change and decisions to your teams, clients and stakeholders
Flexibility: be flexible and adjust as needed
In situations of crisis we don’t have the luxury of time for collecting detailed data, lengthy analysis and extensive deliberations. Peter Baines who leads the charity Hands Across the Water talks about that a crisis is a critical testing ground for leaders and that unique challenges require unique solutions. He says: ‘Hope is not a Plan.’
In a crisis we often don’t have the same level of authority and leaders need to move into actions and reactions. They have to act with speed and make decisions with confidence. Let’s look at decision making: Paula Davis-Laak published this article about the art of making tough decisions: https://www.forbes.com/sites/pauladavislaack/2020/04/01/the-art-of-making-tough-decisions-in-a-crisis/#2f6596302fa0. She presents two psychological processes of decision making:
1. using intuition and gut feeling: fast decision based on our feeling with little or limited information
2. using deliberate thinking: taking time to consider and weigh up facts
It’s been recommended to use the latter in a crisis to make the right decision rather than fast decisions.
I find this quite challenging, especially in times of crisis. I do think we always have to think about our decisions to make them sound but because so many fast reactions and decisions are needed, we also have to rely on the information we have and move forward fast. I am not talking about knee-jerk reactions but fast, courageous decisions are necessary now more than ever. I think in these times it’s about using a bit both and constantly walking the fine line and checking in.
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