It seems a new global crisis is rising every week, from the threat of recession to a global pandemic – it falls down to leaders to make the workforce feel safe and secure in order to inspire them to get the job done.
My own experience in leading in challenging time originates from my time in the British Army leading leading around 180 soldiers of 94 Squadron Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment in Iraq. We came under fire most days from rocket and mortar fire, and travel by road between locations was often dangerous.
It was here that I learned that when you’re leading in pressurized and demanding situations, you need to learn to control your own emotions to remain calm and take time reassure your team. In turbulent times you most create a sense of safety for your teams – even if you’re working in a dangerous situation. Though most workplaces won’t have to deal with this level of uncertainty – there are important lessons to be learned which are already helping leaders in every field, from the NHS to Headteachers.
Understand yourself as a leader
Before you can effectively lead others through crisis, you must first understand and control yourself. Effective leaders are self-aware and work hard to boost their strengths while addressing or compensating for their weaknesses. It is important to reflect on how you work under pressure – ask yourself how does it make you behave towards others? By understanding how you respond in certain situations, you can develop your leadership behaviour to be less reactive and more considered. You can also choose to surround yourself with people whose strengths and talents compensate for their own weaknesses. A leader with self-awareness and self-control understands their own emotions and feelings, pays attention to them, and can discuss them with others.
Humility – Serve to lead
The Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst is one of the oldest most prestigious leadership training centres, their motto isn’t quite what you would expect: Serve to Lead. Service is an important act of positive leadership as it centres leaders within their team – rather than apart from them. Leaders should be just another team member, but one whose function is leading. Leadership is a service – so effective leadership should focus outwards, on others and on the objective.
In times of crisis, this means leaders should keep their focus on their teams – check on how they are doing and that they have the best possible working conditions. When your team is under pressure, leaders can do a few things to ease this – such as encouraging them to go home on time and it might even mean getting stuck in to help with more menial jobs to take pressure off team members.
Find purpose to drive your team
Leaders achieve the majority of their impact by connecting and engaging with others in pursuit of a clear and compelling purpose. A purpose provides direction and focus, which is important to anchor your team in turbulent times. To accomplish this effectively, the leader must have a positive influence on those they lead.
Uncertainty makes most people uncomfortable. Creating objectives provided teams with more clarity and reassurance in their leader, this in turn instils a sense of security in their teams. The more information and inspiration a leader can provide their team, the more secure those people will feel and the more capable they will be to use their initiative and make good decisions. There is a real imperative for leaders who want to build and maintain a positive culture to work hard to inspire and be understood.
Creating a sense of safety in turbulent times
Generally, people feel uncomfortable with in turbulent times because of the uncertaintity. The more clarity and reassurance a leader can give to the team, the better. Effective leaders create a sense of safety for their team. The more information and inspiration a leader can give to their team, the safer those people feel, and the more able they are to use their initiative and make good decisions. People do not like or trust detached leaders, and a lack of communication and clarity will lead to mistrust and a poor working culture. There is a real imperative for leaders who want to build and maintain a positive culture to work hard to inspire and be understood.