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Disaster Leadership: Playing Offense in a Time of Defense – Part 1

As the world–families, individuals, governments, non-governmental organizations, law enforcement, critical infrastructure, military and more–snap into reaction and response mode during a global cascade of Covid-19 lockdowns and closings, we are seeing leaders across the board scrambling to keep up. Crisis Leadership is needed with each passing day.

Crisis leadership is different than status quo leadership. It requires a different skill set, a different perspective, a different set of assumptions, a different approach to decision making and planning.

Everything we assumed about the world as we sat down to make strategic plans in Q4 2019 has changed, and while we’d all have welcomed a few more weeks to process that fact, we simply don’t have the time. In the coming weeks and months, the business community will be working the same way as the medical and scientific community: In real time, with partial data, making our best guesses, which at times may be based on flawed assumptions.

And based on what we’ve seen in just 60 days, all the old guidelines and benchmarks are suspended–just as school, trade shows, and travel. We’ll need to learn to tolerate levels of uncertainty, flexibility, and tolerance for overnight change that would have caused boardroom meltdowns just before Christmas 2019.

We will do this because we must do this. The global and American business community is capable of rising to this challenge. We will make adjustments in real time. We will embrace changing data, changing circumstances, changing conditions. We will ride the tsunami.

I wanted to share a message I received in the heart of the crisis from two leaders to illustrate why I remain optimistic, even as we head into some of the most challenging weeks we are likely to see in our lifetimes.

Crisis Leadership Tip: Communicate That You Care

Communication with everybody during a crisis of this magnitude needs to strike an appropriate tone, and that tone is human.

Nobody wants to be sold to when the world is falling apart. They want someone to take a bit of pressure off themselves. They want someone to step in and tell them it will be OK. They want a calm, rational, reassuring voice to tell them I can help–tell me how.

Join us tomorrow as I share a communication from a Vistage Chair that offered seven communication tips that will go a long way toward smoothing over every communication during this time of heightened emotions, worries, frustrations, and concerns, based on the work of Michael Margolis. We appreciated them immensely and have modified them for the leaders we work with.

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