Tuesday, April 02, 2013

On Crisis

Every now and then as a leader you will find yourself in the midst of a crisis. A crisis is that situation when you suddenly realize and say to yourself “Never had that before!” ... well, and you might add some of your very own words to that statement. The latest you know that you are in a crisis is, when everyone of your group is just looking at you for your guidance and your leadership. And a crisis gets you right at the edge of what you are capable of.

All the talent, the learning, the training you have had cannot prepare you for a particular crisis, hence, that is why it is called crisis, What your ongoing learning, training, and practicing can do, is preparing you for extreme and complex situations. That is why learning, training, practicing must be done on an ongoing basis, it never stops. Only then you will know your limits, you will know what you are capable of.

On a sunny, beautiful day, when the seas are calm, just about everyone wants to be the captain steering the ship. When the weather gets rough and extreme, only experienced captains, those well prepared having gone through and dealt with complex, extreme situations, are able to steer the ship to safety. In leadership it is no different. A crisis is usually an extreme and complex situation and it needs to be dealt with right away. Time is always of the essence. You have to assess the situation without having enough data, left alone data of comparable situations, since each crisis is unique. 

I do believe in cooperation and cocreation, in my opinion a leader is the first amongst equals, but nevertheless a leader. You will, of course, use the combined knowledge and experience of your group members, to broaden and deepen your view of the situation at hand. Yet, in such special and extreme conditions, your group will always look at you expecting your leadership. Make no mistake, in these situations as a leader you are on your own, and being a leader becomes suddenly the loneliest job of this world. Leading is hard, very hard.

A group of people can always cooperate and cocreate, being it a movement or in an organization. It requires, however, a lot of courage to step up and lead.  These leaders are the ones making a difference for the movement or organization. It is then when people realize, to say it with Stanley Mc Chrystal’s words, that leaders actually lead. They don’t follow opinions.

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