Legitimate Leadership Concepts About Leading In A Crisis (Webinar Report One)

This report and the next report (respectively on the Concept and Practice of leading in crisis in organisations) are from a Legitimate Leadership webinar held on 30 July 2020. The presenters were Wendy Lambourne of Legitimate Leadership (this report) and Miles Crisp of Tarsus Technology Group of South Africa (next report). Ian Munro of Legitimate Leadership was the moderator. The webinar had 99 attendees.

In a crisis the chickens come home to roost: people rally or scatter.

What people choose to do is a function of the intent of their leadership: if historically leadership has been in the relationship with those they lead to give, those people in turn will, in a crisis, come to the fore and do whatever they can for the survival of the organisation. If the leadership has been there to take, the opposite will occur: they will do little if anything and maybe they will jump ship.

What leaders do in a crisis may be forgiven but it will not be forgotten. Leaders come under increased scrutiny from their people. A crisis creates lingering memories.

This throws up two possibilities:
• Irretrievable breakdown in trust in relationships, which will never be the same again.
• The leaders capture the hearts and minds of their people as never before.

If you Google the characteristics required for leadership in a crisis, you will get a list so long you might as well give up in advance.

But Legitimate Leadership believes there are only two essential characteristics required: compassion and courage, in that order. Leaders who are revered in a crisis have the combination of a soft and brave heart.
And these qualities are a matter of choice, a matter of the will. If you don’t display these qualities you have no one to blame but yourself.

People only trust others who care about them. In this Covid crisis this care for people has been brought into sharp focus.

But more than care for people’s physical and material needs is required in a crisis.

There are essentially three care “gives” as a leader in a crisis:

  1. Don’t just give them time and attention but increase both. A person gives time and attention to those things he/she cares about.
  2. Care in the sense of being honest with your people. Trust them with sensitive information so they can in turn demonstrate their trustworthiness.
  3. Give tough love: care in a way that enables people, rather than making them weak.

Legitimate Leadership believes that most of the leaders in our client companies are passing the care test with flying colours.

But our experience is that the leaders are not passing the growth test. People are looking to those leaders to save them in the crisis, and the leaders are doing just that. We think that is not the right thing to do. Leaders must rather deliberately empower, not control, people in a crisis.

Yes, leaders should continue to set policy and strategy. But they should push all other decisions down the line. This means increasing people’s responsibilities so that leaders resist the temptation to “do”; rather empower managers to empower their people. Increase people’s responsibilities so that you can accelerate their growth in the crisis. And once the crisis is over, resist taking back authority, and resist re-imposing the controls removed in the crisis. And continue making decisions with limited information, as leaders did in the crisis.

First and foremost, leaders must look at themselves in a crisis. Look at who you are as a leader – because who you are as the CEO, for instance, is reflected in the organisation. So leaders should make themselves the project.

In a crisis a leader’s intent is revealed; the crisis also provides a golden opportunity for leaders to polish their intent and set the example for others to follow. In a crisis the leader grows more than anyone else.

Q: Are all the different types of trust correlated? Can you have the trust of your employees but no trust with your suppliers or customers?

A: How the other party perceives your intent determines how they respond to you. This is true in any relationship. For instance, I know that Legitimate Leadership will go above and beyond in every way we can for the clients who stayed with us through the Covid crisis. It doesn’t matter what the relationship is, if the intent in the relationship is to give, the natural instinctive reaction of the other party is to give in return.