“Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Leadership during a crisis.

While it’s debated on who said “Lead, follow, or get out of the way,” it’s exactly what’s required at this time.  As a leader, you must keep your composure while everyone else is losing theirs. A calm voice, clear guidance, and a detailed action plan will see your teams through this crisis.

Leadership during a crisis

With the onset of COVID-19, the world has come to a standstill.  Business have gone remote or gone completely offline.  Your Q2 plan has blown up, as well as your annual plan.  So, what do you need to do right now to lead your teams and survive or even thrive?

Ignore the noise

First, stop talking about the virus.  Outside of social distancing and washing your hands, it’s out of your control.  The constant barrage online and over the TV are enough noise to drown out any clear thoughts.

Develop monthly plans

Second, unless you had a contingency plan to overcome a global pandemic, trash your old plans.  Whatever you were planning to do for Q2 probably isn’t going to happen.  You need to shorten your timeline and bring in your horizon.  Plan for the next month and plan for a sprint. To accomplish this, you should adhere to the following steps:

  1. Develop your intent for the next month.  Look for opportunities and give clear guidance on what you want to achieve.  Are you an MSP and you can offer secure remote services? Are there internal projects that should have been completed long ago, but weren’t because you never had the time?  When was the last time you really looked at your operating procedures and SOP’s?
  2. Identify the situation, challenges, obstacles, and opportunities.  Put everything on the board.
  3. Breakdown the obstacles to those you can control or mitigate and those you cannot. (Tip- Coronavirus is out of your control.  Look inward.)
  4. Identify Resources you can utilize to mitigate or negate the obstacles  (people, processes, assets, etc.)
  5. Identify the opportunities that are achievable under the current environment.
  6. Develop action steps.  Be clear and concise. Who is doing What by When!
  7. Execute, evaluate, and then plan the next month when it arrives.

This will pass

Third, don’t lose sight of the recovery.  This will pass.  Those who start planning for the upswing will be better positioned when it happens than those who focus only on tomorrow.  If you have the people, designate a team to develop three scenarios for the recovery: worse case, best case, and most likely case.  This will pay huge dividends during the upswing and if nothing more, it will keep your teams from focusing on the doom and gloom of today.

Stay above the fray

Your clients and employees are keying off what you say, how you say it, and how you act.  As a leader, it’s your responsibility and obligation to maintain your cool in a crisis.  In any endeavor, sports, government, military, or business, the leaders who stayed above the fray won out in the end. 

As my father used to tell me, “Don’t be part of the problem or add to it.  Be part of the solution.”

Patrick Houlahan