Crises tend to be the training ground for leadership. Wars produce great presidents and prime ministers. Oppression becomes the breeding ground for liberators and activists. Troubled times seem to be the harvest season for greater leaders and leadership.
This is not in the least coincidental — adversity births greatness. People rise to their best when trouble comes; and as they rise, they begin to believe that anything is possible. The desperation produced by storms, disease, terrorism, war and other tragedies produces leaders and leadership strategies. In times of peace — in the absence of traumatic circumstances — leadership principles are essential. But in times of adversity, these principles are beyond important: they carry life-and-death potential.
As we globally face COVID-19, leaders and leadership are rising. We are understanding principles that we never realized — or at least ones we had not been forced to implement. At 60 years of age, I can say that I have never walked through anything like this. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were devastating, but they did not create shortage in medical supplies, sweeping international fear and death and a global lockdown.
In my latest book, 4C Leadership, I attempt to highlight the practical lessons that all of us are learning:
Context becomes critical in crisis for a leader must know who he or she can lead, who is listening and who might be willing to lend a hand. A leader must learn how to assess and leverage his or her context.
Collaboration is birthed by the shortages we hit during crisis. Leaders can unlock the potential of existing and new relationships that in one swoop can take them from loss to gain.
Communication during extreme difficulty becomes a lifeline, not a performance. In crisis you discover that real communication is not speaking or writing well, it is effectively exchanging information within your context.
Contingency thinking is no longer optional but required in crisis because inevitably the first plan won’t work. If you don’t have another plan, failure is likely in your future!
The beauty of strategies born out of trouble is that application can always be found. Unfortunately, much of what we learn in peacetime just doesn’t apply in seasons of overwhelming adversity. The principles and strategies — the 4 Cs of leadership — will not only give you tools to lead by, but they will remind you that, in the darkest times of your life, you learn what you could not learn otherwise.
The Chinese word for crisis is weyjin. This compound word is composed of the words “danger and opportunity.” Crisis, while daunting and dangerous, can be harnessed for progress and opportunity. Fear will only see the danger, but faith will connect your opportunity!
I continue to pray for you as you navigate this season — that you will daily discern applications that are life-changing for you and for those you influence. That you will discern your context, engage in collaboration, enhance your communication and find options in contingency thinking.