Back in 2008-2009, during the economic recession crisis, I also had other personal issues going on during that time, including losing both my father and my sister. I remember somebody came up to me in a training session and said, “I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do or say next.” This was unexpected, and I looked at him and thought to myself, “I’m not even sure what I’m going to do or say next!” As if he could read my mind, he responded, “You always seem to have an answer. You always seem to be calm, and we can count on you.”
That made me realize people are always observing how you act as a leader. I think Schwarzkopf said once, something along the lines of “if you have to go into battle and you either have to take your integrity or a good battle plan with you, leave the battle plan behind and lead with your integrity.” People are watching how you treat others, and if you are honest, transparent, etc.
You need to share knowledge from the head, but you need to treat people from the heart. Now is the time to exercise your virtues, because you see people of impeccable character. People you know are going in on the front line, trying to save people’s lives, and then there are others, for example, who are trying to price gouge on the internet for hand sanitizer. For better or worse, it is what’s in the spotlight. You better make sure you take your virtues with you every day.
During a crisis, leaders need to be able to think clearly, make decisions, and keep the momentum moving forward. This is where, sometimes, their focus might appear very task-oriented, much like the “D” and “C” leadership styles. However, even a task-oriented approach requires virtuous leadership.
There will come a time (or even multiple times throughout the workday) when you won’t know what to do. Don’t let pride or ego creep in and cloud your judgment; be transparent with your team. Let them know that even though you don’t have the answer right now, you’re committed to finding a solution and are open to ideas and feedback. Your candid, collaborative approach to asking for help will likely be viewed as humble courage.
Once the team begins working together on the mission, it’s time to make sure the members of the team are thriving. This is the time to switch from head to heart leadership. This is when your focus moves from task-oriented to people-oriented, much like the “I” and “S” leadership styles.
It is inevitable, as a leader, you will encounter a team member who is struggling to keep up with the pace of the team. Recognizing and responding to the needs of others is an essential and critical leadership skill that requires patience, compassion, and empathy. People are generally hesitant to speak up about things that might detract them from being viewed as anything other than productive at work. A virtuous leader will engage from a place of care and understanding, working to build trust and establish positive communication with the person struggling in hopes of finding an amicable solution.
As a leader, you will be faced with situations that will test your moral courage, requiring you to maintain the flexibility of leading with your head and leading from your heart. Both are necessary, but you must be grounded in your values and behavior because people are watching whether you recognize it or not. As the former presidential speechwriter, James C. Humes once said, “Leaders, even when they are sightseers or spectators, are active; not passive observers.”
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