Leadership in responding to a crisis
Leaders can prepare for a crisis but in the midst of an unforeseen or catastrophic one it can be extremely challenging to make clear-headed decisions. The following list provides a leadership decision-making process in the midst of a crisis situation.
- Seek credible information: As a leader, it is your responsibility to determine the most reliable, up-to-date information from trustworthy news sources. In the current case of the coronavirus, consult local public health officials, the World Health Organization — which provides rolling updates — and the Public Health Agency of Canada, where you can find advice on how to prepare and take action.
- Use appropriate communication channels: Once essential information is gathered, it should be shared across your organization by the most effective means available. Transparency is key. Information is powerful because it:
- Reduces emotional distress caused by the unknown,
- Diminishes fear,
- Provides tactical guidance, and
- Demonstrates to employees that their leaders are concerned, involved, knowledgeable, and on top of the situation.
- Explain what your organization is doing about the crisis: During a crisis, time seems to accelerate. The initial onset of a crisis generates immense pressure to act. Sometimes you have to begin tackling a problem before you have a solid grasp of what’s happening. If you are in charge, take charge. As you make decisions and take action, communicate those actions truthfully and honestly.
- Be present, visible, and available: During a crisis, be accessible to employees and partners. It will not always possible to walk around and talk to colleagues in person, particularly in the context of physical distancing requirements, so let employees know how they can best reach you with status updates and questions.