Leading In A Crisis

Things are changing fast. The future is uncertain. Everyone—you included—is stressed and anxious. And your team are turning to you for leadership. But what does good leadership look like at a moment like this? Where do you even start? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

Marketing leaders are facing challenges on multiple fronts right now. There’s plenty of good advice out there about strategy and execution. For example: enough with the superfluous emails already.

Some of this advice—like this comprehensive deck from BBH—is certainly worth a deep read. But what about leading a team through this crisis? What can you do to rise to this challenge?

Start by recognizing that strong leadership requires you to manage your own feelings: “Negative emotions are every bit as contagious as the virus, and they’re also toxic. Fatigue, fear, and panic undermine our ability to think clearly and creatively.

Make it your goal to achieve—and project—a realistic, yet positive state of mind. According to McKinsey the key components here are ‘deliberate calm’ and ‘bounded optimism’.

With this in mind, consider adjusting your media habits  on facts over fear.

Author and therapist Kathleen Smith’s offers more sound advice for optimizing your mental state: fight the urge to fix every problem quickly and, most importantly, learn to live with uncertainty.

The next step is self-reflection. Ask yourself: am I leading my team through this crisis or just managing our response to it? Leadership involves more than making decisions and allocating resources. It’s about “guiding people to the best possible eventual outcome over time”.

This guidance can take many forms, large and small. The new normal requires new norms, so consider using new structures and processes to achieve a feeling of stability. Especially if your team is suddenly working from home.

Communication is also critical. While the crisis is in full swing you should be communicating with your team often—at least every other day. Be as transparent as you can, explaining how and why decisions are being made.

Last but not least, recognize that your team might not be at their most productive as the crisis escalates: “Prioritize and be realistic about what people can achieve, at least in the short term”.

Issue #90
Mar 29, 2020

Further Reading