Crisis is quite common. Leadership expert John Maxwell says that a crisis is several consecutive bad days that you can’t walk away from. During a crisis, bad leadership precipitates a faster fall while good leadership offers steadiness and perseverance.
Ultimately, John defines a crisis as “an intense time of difficulty requiring a decision that will be a turning point.” With everything going on in the world right now, our current global situation certainly meets that definition!
The good news is all crises will eventually pass.
You may be reading this and thinking “I’m not a leader, I won’t have to lead through a crisis, someone else will.” Or, you may be thinking “I just want to get through this crisis I’m in now.” Or even, “I’m not going to be in any stupid crisis. That only happens to other people, not me.”
Well, It’s not a question of if you’ll find yourself in a crisis, it’s a question of when. The real question is, how will you lead?
Have you ever unexpectedly found yourself in a crisis when you weren’t prepared? Or a time when you expected someone else to be in charge and instead found out you were responsible? Well, in 2017 I found myself in that exact situation.
Now I know you’re wondering, what happened? Right? Well, there was this little storm called Hurricane Irma…
Hurricane Irma was a catastrophic storm causing devastating damage to the Caribbean and Florida. The Category 5 hurricane reached its peak with winds recorded at 185 mph, making it one of the strongest hurricanes of our time.
Irma caused catastrophic damage in Barbuda, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands. When the hurricane reached the Florida Keys, Irma was a Category 4 with 130 mph winds. The predicted track of the storm would bring Irma through the center of Florida and cover the entire state.
In preparation for Irma, my worksite was activated as a shelter for evacuees. When I arrived at work to begin shelter preparations, I was greeted by 30 evacuees and several volunteers. As a shelter, our primary function was to provide a clean and safe facility for evacuees. When I asked if the Red Cross had arrived the answer was a disappointing no!
After waiting two hours, I was informed the Red Cross would not be available. According to protocol, once the shelter is activated it must be staffed and operated by the Red Cross. However, due to Hurricane Harvey’s impact on Texas and the size of Irma, the Red Cross was not available to run the shelter.
Well, you know what happened next. Everyone looked at me to lead them!
As the site leader, I was expected to run the shelter. Fortunately, a Red Cross “shelter box” had been dropped off. As I stood there looking at the box, volunteers and evacuees, I had a difficult choice to make. What was the choice?
Option A – I could step up and lead or…
Option B – I could wring my hands and complain.
Which option do you think I chose? Well, you know which option I chose… Option A of course. Why? Because leaders lead through crises!
I also understood I would be wasting precious time wringing my hands and complaining because I would still be in charge…
So, I broke the seal on the box and we officially opened as a shelter. Over the next 120 hours, we welcomed, sheltered, feed, and cared for evacuees.
Leading a shelter was quite a challenge, especially once we lost power. Fortunately, the backup generators provided emergency lighting!
Once the hurricane passed, we transitioned into a long-term shelter, and the Red Cross arrived.
When we finally shut down shelter operations, we had hosted more than 1,200 evacuees, 12 security officers, six Emergency Medical Services personnel, three custodians, six food service personnel, and countless volunteers.
As I reflected on the shelter experience, I realized Hurricane Irma had been a situation where I was unexpectedly leading through a crisis. What a surprise!
Leading through a crisis can be quite challenging. Some of the skills I found most helpful knowing was:
- Practical ways to maneuver through times of difficulty and adversity
- How to effectively battle distractions during times of stress
- Successful thinking habits to think your way through the crisis
When properly prepared, you can experience greater peace and empowerment while helping others as you lead through a crisis.
Yes, you to can lead better in your current crisis, and even become a better leader during your next crisis. You just need to be prepared.
Remember, It’s not a question of if you will find yourself in a crisis, it’s a question of when, and how you will lead…
Are you prepared to lead through your next crisis?
Want to be a better leader during your next crisis? Click HERE to view my free, 2-hour “Leading Through Crisis” masterclass!