Dealing Dilemma During Crisis

Have you worked for or followed leaders who succeeded in the midst of crises? What differentiates those leaders who happened to remain victims of a crisis and those who led during chaotic circumstances well? What kind of leaders are successful during times full of dilemmas? What kind of leaders tend to fail when faced with distressful times where they must deal with lots of dilemmas at once?

Crisis breeds chaos. Things become unpredictable. The style, preference, and process that have been allowing you to lead successfully, they suddenly become inadequate. Your assets become liabilities. The ‘map’ you have been using to guide you ends up obsolete and unable to assist you to navigate safely during times of distress.

What you learned while in schools and the experiences you have accumulated thus far aren’t relevant any longer. You’re thrown off your game. Your programs, schedules, and routines are busted. You feel like you are starting from scratch. You become vulnerable and in a disadvantageous position. That is what you experience during a crisis.

A crisis moment is also full of contradictions. Your boundaries are no more there or unable to protect you. Uncertainty and doubt increase. With limited and sometimes inaccurate data you are expected to make decisions, sometimes tough ones. You no longer have the luxury of taking ample time to think, reflect, and run your ideas by your inner circle. The latter may not be there as they are dealing with their own crisis or clueless about what you are dealing with.

Those leaders who took the time to grow and stretch themselves are well prepared to deal with the dilemmas a crisis presents. They have been waiting for such a chaotic moment ahead of the curve. Those who haven’t are in big trouble.

Pilots who rescued their passengers, crews, and themselves from deadly crashes were those who did their homework. It wasn’t by chance they made a ‘miraculous’ maneuver. They had been there and familiar with the chaotic situation they found themselves well beyond it actually happened. They weren’t blindsided. They had already faced the incident (something similar to it) and responded to it successfully in their heads.

Smart leaders intentionally grow during peace, prosperous, and stable times to outgrow times of distress. They deliberately immunize themselves. They pass through so many simulations anticipating challenges before they surface.

The same with successful boxers. They had been training well and anticipating the deadly blows that might come from their opponents. As a result, they responded and even leveraged the moments that were intended to knock them down for their own advantages. They actually hit back with counter-attacks that led them to victories again and again. I like what Mike Tyson said, Everybody has a plan until they get hit.”

Leaders who never prepared for crisis moments, those who failed to grow during normal times on how to deal with unexpected hits from a crisis think that they are okay until they are hit by a crisis. When that happens, they don’t know what to do. They drop the ball and become ineffective leaders. They are unable to help their people come out on the other side safely and victoriously.

On the other hand, leaders who succeed during a crisis are those who can lead in the midst of contradictions very well. Leaders who are willing to bust their own boundaries. Leaders who could come out of their comfort zone quickly. Leaders who challenge their own style, preference, system, and those who have the willingness to change their approaches, reform their institutions, and continue to adapt to the unpredictable situations they face during times of distress.

Dogmatic leaders cannot lead during crisis successfully. They aren’t willing to disrupt their normal styles, routines, and approaches. They are either too rigid and unwilling to make changes or too slow to do so on time when it matters the most.

In Episode 12, I shared some of the dilemmas leaders may face. I also suggested how to deal with dilemmas during times of crisis. Below are the most common ones:

  1. Empathy vs. Toughness. There are leaders who have empathy. They put themselves in the place of others. They tend to make every decision solely based on how it affects their people. Likewise, there are leaders who base their decisions based on hardcore data and facts. They don’t hesitate to make tough decisions regardless of how these may affect their people. Depending on their industries, both could be successful. The question is: Are they willing to face the dilemma and entertain making decisions by stepping outside of their comfort zone during times of distress. For instance, leaders who incline to be empathetic all the time, are they willing to make some tough decisions during a crisis to protect the majority and the greater good even if some of their decisions may affect some. Leaders, who solely depend on data to dictate their decisions, are they willing to put the life and well being of their people first whenever necessary regardless of what the data and bottom-line says?
  2. Optimistic vs. Realistic.
  3. Programmed vs Casual.
  4. Strategic vs. Tactical

To learn more about the other three dilemmas, click below and watch Episode 12:

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By the way, I also released an online course ‘Overcoming First-Timer Syndrome’ for Team Leads, Project Managers, Supervisors, and Business Owners. The course has 11 modules. Each module has 30 – 45 minutes of video teaching and a worksheet that summarizes the main discussion points, learning objectives plus lots of assignments. There are also some downloadable samples and templates. To learn more about the course, check out this page: