No Pain, No Gain: Seven Lessons of Leadership in a Crisis

24 Oct

A lot of people strive to be good leaders in their lifetimes. It is indeed hard. Good leaders should be their employees’ role models and have to stay rational when everybody else in the company freaks out in a crisis. People say, “No pain; no gain.” If this is the case, does it mean that people have to suffer more in order to be a good leader? Not necessarily. A shortcut would simply be to learn from others’ pains. Here are the seven suggestions Bill George summarized from other CEOs’ hard times to deal with crises:

  1. Facing Reality. This is the foremost thing to do in a crisis. It means finding out the real reason that caused the problem. The leaders can only plan for the right strategy after they get everybody on board and gather the truth from each one.
  2. Anticipating the Worst. The leaders also need to know how serious the problems are. They need to understand the ponderance of the situation in order to plan for moves that are strong enough to correct the mistakes. They would also set the right expectation for the bearers, and not make them dissatisfied.
  3. Preparing Cash. Abundant cash is the amulet for the company during a crisis. Leaders might have other priorities during “peacetime”, but these things should all be sacrificed for cash for all kinds of unexpected use in emergencies.
  4. Seeking Support. Leaders shouldn’t work alone during crises. It’s essential for employees at all levels to work together towards the same goal, which makes this a perfect time to unite them.
  5. Making Sacrifices Yourself. The staff all looks up to their bosses especially in hard times. If the leaders put their own interests in front of the company’s, nobody would sacrifice more than the leader does.
  6. Utilize the Crisis. Crisis is a good opportunity for leaders to check what has gone wrong, and to make things right again. Since it’s an emergency, leaders would also implement the strategies more efficiently.
  7. Creating Changes. The market would never be the same after the crisis is solved. Therefore, it can actually be a chance for the leaders to make some aggressive changes to adapt to the new market.

These seven “gains” summed up for others’ “pains” should enable leaders or future leaders like us to get over crises, or even make good use of them, without suffering too much.

However, Bill George did not mention the foundation on which to practice these seven lessons—and that is PLANNING AHEAD. The only way to be able to take the shortcut and avoid the pain is to plan which way to go before running into the intersections. Otherwise, people might risk choosing the wrong way, and in that case, they can only gain from the pains. More specifically, good leaders should bear all these lessons in minds, and prepare themselves economically and mentally even before anything goes wrong. This is why people say to save against a rainy day.

by Carol Qi


2 Responses to “No Pain, No Gain: Seven Lessons of Leadership in a Crisis”

  1. Jake Lazarus October 30, 2011 at 10:39 pm #

    While I think it is good to learn from others’ mistakes, I still believe that doing something yourself is the best way to learn. While it may be more painful and have consequences, it ensures that you do not make the same mistake again. Perhaps the best way to say it is that, rather than saying do not make any mistakes, you should push yourself early so if mistakes happen, they do so at a time that is not important and can be fixed with minimal consequences. Essentially, you want to learn from mistakes before you get to that important position, so you can maximize your success.

  2. Jake Lazarus October 30, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    By the way, I do agree with the crisis management suggestions. It seems like companies and those who are leading the companies get into the most trouble when they try to avoid these suggestions. Like “honesty is the best policy,” these suggestions may not be the easiest, like making sacrifices, but end up being the best for the company, and usually the leaders as well, in the long run.

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