The Covid-19 crisis continues to create disruption on many fronts around the world. In fact, the number of cases are spiking in 35 states as I write this article. As leaders we have been challenged to find a better way to lead during a crisis. It is hard to think about anything other than survival in this moment. If previous crises are anything to judge by, however, the decisions and actions we take now will ultimately determine our success in not only surviving the current crises but thriving afterward.

There are significant differences between the current situation and previous crises like the financial crash of 2008 or the dot-com meltdown of 2000. These differences in how the impact will be felt in the economy, combined with the anxiety and disruption to our personal and social lives, places a greater emphasis on responding to the current situation through both an understanding of our faith and hope.

With this as our backdrop, I have come to believe that those of us who are called to faithfully (and successfully) provide the leadership to navigate rapid change and uncertainty, need to be willing to adopt a couple of critical positions:

1.   Leaders calm Survive and focus on Thrive. During this crisis those we lead are feeling anxious and fearful about security, their health, their loved ones, and the future in general. As individual Survive Channels are working on overtime, the Thrive Channels becomes overwhelmed. As leaders, we must find various ways to calm Survive responses, in addition to activating Thrive responses.

Calming, I believe, requires transparently articulating what is known, what is certain, and what possible outcomes are being considered. Leaders can help by clarifying perceived threats from real ones, reducing ambiguity through clear communication, and instilling confidence through transparent, inclusive decision making.

With the Survive Channel sufficiently calmed down, leaders can then work to activate Thrive Channels by focusing on opportunities and creating ways for those we serve to contribute ideas, innovate, and take actions towards a vision for the future.

2.  Leaders cultivate an opportunity seeking mindset. During times of high uncertainty, we are often advised to not rock the boat and ride out the storm, but that leads us nowhere. It is precisely during critical times of doubt and uncertainty to cultivate an opportunity seeking mindset. A belief in a forward-looking opportunity, that is, a well activated Thrive Channel, provides motivation and energy that is far more sustainable than that stemming from fear.

I cringe when I hear people say, “I can’t wait to get back to the things used to be”.  That will not happen. My parents lived through the depression and it transformed their lives. I have never known a person who could make a dollar go further than my father!

Having an opportunity seeking mindset is what will allow us to identify appropriate directions, adapt to the current context and play offense, even in a time of crisis.

To be perfectly transparent, there are days when I’m not sure how to employ the above two leadership qualities. What I do know for sure, is that decisions leaders make in adapting to this rapidly changing situation will have a tremendous impact on their families, those they serve, and society at large.

John V. Clark, President/Partner
The James Company
(815) 353-8997