The worst time to be a leader is during a crisis when the pressure is on. However, this is also when your team needs you the most. They don’t just need to know what’s happening, either. They need to feel reassured that the situation is under control.

How can you provide a calm presence when you’re just as stressed as they are? It’s difficult, and that’s why all leaders need to work on their crisis management skills. These skills will help you respond appropriately if and when the worst does happen.

If you want to support your team responsibly and effectively in a disaster, then read on. You’ll soon understand the skills and qualities that you need to develop for these situations.

Communication

Your team will be looking to you for answers, which means how you describe the situation will have an influence on their perceptions. While you may be tempted to adopt a positive approach and minimize matters, make sure you’re honest with them about what’s going on.

Why? The worst thing you could do would be to damage their trust with a misleading version of events. If your team lose faith in you at this stage, it will make every step of the resolution process much more difficult.

Of course, there’s no need to catastrophize either, as this would just cause unnecessary panic. Stick to the facts, acknowledge their concerns, and answer their questions to the best of your ability. You may have been given strict rules about what information you can share. It’s important that you bear these rules in mind and maintain professionalism, even whilst under pressure.

Empathy

If you have the relationship skills of anticipating, identifying, and understanding other people’s emotions, this will serve you well in a crisis. You will be able to predict different people’s potential responses, allowing you to be proactive in addressing their concerns.

As a leader, you can’t afford to ignore the emotional elements of a crisis. Your team needs to know that their feelings are valid and that their opinions have been heard by the higher-ups. Otherwise, they’ll be less invested in supporting recovery efforts.

You can show that you empathize by using statements such as “we’re all feeling very anxious right now, but we can work together and combine our skills to resolve this situation.” Collective words like “we” and “our” help to create a sense of team spirit during a crisis. This can be a source of strength.

Flexibility

Crises are volatile by definition. Even once you’ve made a plan that you believe is perfect, you may be forced to suddenly change it. New information is constantly coming to light, and you have to adapt to updates as they are received.

This isn’t the moment to be stubborn or to dwell in feelings of frustration. When a course of action is no longer appropriate, it needs to be abandoned swiftly. As a leader, your job is to reframe the situation for your team so you can generate new solutions.

This is why flexibility is such an important quality. Flexible people can view problems from a range of perspectives and respond promptly to challenges.

Self-regulation

Leaders are human beings! So it’s understandable if you feel overwhelmed, sad or even angry at the situation you’ve found yourself in. The emotions themselves aren’t wrong. Where you might go wrong is in how you manage them.

Self-regulation can help you harness these emotions so that they serve you rather than distract you. When you have this skill, you can consciously manage your thoughts and feelings. It’s crucial in a moment of crisis because your whole team will be affected by the reactions that you display.

You need to know when it’s appropriate to vent and when your reactions must be more controlled. You should also have a range of strategies you can use to calm yourself down during periods of high pressure.

Analytical skills

When you’re presented with a problem, you need to be able to quickly evaluate the ins and outs of the situation. Rather than making rash decisions, you should be able to assess circumstances from a range of perspectives before coming up with potential solutions.

Being analytical means being able to weigh up pros and cons and make contrasts and connections between different ideas. You should be able to incorporate information from a range of sources to come to balanced conclusions.

As a leader, you may feel tempted to operate on instinct. While business savvy is undoubtedly important, listening to your gut isn’t enough. You should also be analyzing data and consulting with other people before committing to a particular path of action.

Decision-making

When the stakes are high, very few of us want to be in charge of making decisions. However, this is your responsibility as a leader, and it shouldn’t be avoided. After all, excessive indecision could lead to damaging delays. Although you should evaluate evidence and consider all available alternatives, when the time comes, you must be assertive enough to make a decision and follow it through. The decisions you make will often be unpopular. That’s the burden that leaders must carry, unfortunately!

Remember, your role isn’t to choose the easiest option. It’s to choose the right option. You have been entrusted with a leadership position because people believe you’re capable of making that call. The more confidently you communicate your decisions, the more likely you’ll be to bring the skeptics around to your way of thinking.

Resourcefulness

You’re the leader, but you’re not alone in this crisis. Think about all the resources you have as a team to solve the problems you face, be they skills, materials, or external contacts. Don’t be afraid to delegate when it’s strategically sensible to do so.

When you’re resourceful, you can find quick and effective ways to overcome obstacles. This requires a creative attitude. You shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box, to come up with unconventional solutions, and to try new, experimental approaches.

You should also create an environment in which your team feels comfortable sharing their ideas. Otherwise, you’re wasting one of the best resources that you have available: your people!

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