Three Keys To Leading Well in a Crisis
So you’re leading through the biggest crisis in recent history.
I’m guessing you feel overwhelmed, not to mention exhausted. You barely have time to read this post.
So let me keep this short.
Foundationally, three of the best things you can do when under stress are get plenty of sleep, eat healthily, and get exercise.
They’re all also among the first to go in a crisis. I know I’ve been tempted to sacrifice all of them in the last few weeks, on have been cutting back on sleep and a bit on exercise as well.
I also know that needs to stop.
Turning in early, taking a 15-minute naps, or even doing a few sets of pushups when you’re in lockdown can help your mental and emotional health, and basically, that’s what you’re bringing to leadership in a crisis—your energy and your mind.
But since you already know about sleep diet and exercise, here are three other things you can do to help you navigate the crisis.
- WALK AWAY
Your brain can only process so much. Same with your heart.
There are moments where a crisis demands that you have to push through. But you’re not a machine. You have limits.
Nothing makes you want to push your limits more than a crisis.
If you’re exhausted and perhaps even before you get there, one of the best things you can do is walk away. Just take a break.
I realize it’s not always possible, but it is possible more than we admit to ourselves.
If you struggle spiritually with the idea of walking away or taking a break, even Jesus walked away. There were times where more people wanted to be healed, and he left. On numerous occasions, his disciples couldn’t find him. Jesus was off praying or resting.
I called this practice ‘walking away’ rather than taking a break largely or stepping away because as a responsible, caring leader you will tell yourself there’s no time to take a break.
That’s correct. Which is why you need to think of it as walking away.
You will be walking away from need.
In a crisis is there’s always more to do. The need never goes away, and you can never do enough.
But leaders who never take a break end up breaking.
Which is why, for your sake and for everyone’s sake, you need to sometimes walk away. Just because you can’t every day or at a particular moment doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
So how do you know when it’s time to walk away for a moment or two?
Let your energy levels guide you.
When your energy is low, you won’t accomplish much anyway.
What if you cooperated with your energy levels instead of fought them?
Instead of blinking mindlessly at your screen for another 30 minutes, get up. Stretch. Take a nap. Go for a walk (if you are allowed). Grab a coffee. Grab some silence.
Or maybe…call it a day.
A rested you—a restored you—is a better you. After all, an empty leader is incapable of filling anyone.
- CARVE OUT SOME SILENCE
Every day, find at least a few minutes of solitude alone.
Mornings are easiest because they’re often the most quiet.
In those silent times, naturally, you’ll want to pray and meditate on scripture. That’s wonderful. Do it.
But also just sit in the silence.
Let your mind wander. Ponder problems. Think.
Often you’ll discover a few things:
- The silence will help you filter through what actually matters amidst all the noise.
- You’ll stumble upon breakthroughs that result from giving your mind and soul some space.
- The silence will be tremendously replenishing.
Spending time in silence will help you make a meaningful contribution in the midst of all the noise a crisis creates.
- TALK TO A FRIEND
As a leader, mostly what you do in a crisis is give.
If you think about it using a banking metaphor, crisis leadership is a series of withdrawals. You give day and night to help other people.
That’s appropriate and exactly what a leader should do.
Too many leaders burn out when the withdrawals are matched by zero deposits.
In addition to sleep, diet, exercise, taking breaks and making time for silence, the final deposit you will want to make comes from friends.
In a crisis, you can be surrounded by people but feel all alone. That’s why friends are so important.
I find in a time like this that friends help me work through the issues, hear my fears, help me process and I do the same for them.
And sometimes, just knowing that someone else doesn’t know the answer is comfort enough.
Loneliness is a choice in leadership. So is friendship.