Much like recessions, crises should never be allowed to go to waste. Both are negative, but offer the opportunity for positive growth. For leaders, a crisis is a chance to make huge strides in building influence.
The reason is simple: When everything falls apart, most people vapor-lock, at least to some extent. It takes a little time for the fear to ease and the shock to wear off. During that time, those emotions make people desperate for leadership. Whoever sounds like the voice of reason will immediately gain followers, meaning they gain influence.
So a couple of suggestions. First, know your immediate action drill. This is the first two or three things you’re going to do in a crisis. Have a plan to calm and reassure your team. Have some ideas to keep them busy while you figure out what’s going on, get guidance as needed, put a plan together.
But the other thing is, don’t freak out. Stay calm. Keep your voice down. Even if you don’t know what to do, don’t be scared of that fact. You’ll figure it out, but not if you’re not calm. Plus, seeing you calm will calm everyone else, and focus their eyes on you. And they’ll look for you the next time.
After 25 years of training and operations as a military officer, there are a few comments that I still treasure more than a decade later. One of them was on my efficiency report as a company commander: “I’ve never seen CPT Steggerda get excited. He keeps his cool.” Every time I did that, I gained influence.