Elisabet Hearn and I wrote this article for 2020visionleader.com
The key to leadership is hope, care and trust – especially in a crisis.
As we watch in horror how Ukraine is being invaded, we reflect on different leadership styles and what it takes to lead in a crisis in particular.
In a crisis everything comes to a head and the key characteristics of effective leadership become crystal clear.
We have probably all met leaders who were feared by others. Those that through their actions and behaviours have made others avoid them, appease them or even cower to them. Yes, that’s sadly not uncommon, but let’s be very clear here, that is NOT leadership.
Leadership by fear and aggression is not leadership at all – it’s bullying and weakness. And that does not belong in a leader’s role or job description.
When people are fearful, they are not operating at their best, they are in survival mode rather than in a creative, collaborative, success generating mode. They may even hide the truth from the leader in an attempt to protect themselves.
We have seen this happen when a financial loss escalated as no-one dared tell the boss that things were not going to plan as they feared his reaction.
Yes, leaders who create fearfulness stop diversity of thought hence are surrounded by group think and yes-sayers who fear speaking up and become enablers of bullying and suppression. And this in turn makes the leader and their decisions less and less successful and effective.
Not only does it feel pretty awful to be at the other end of fear-inducing leadership, it’s also a HUGE waste of human capacity and potential. No-one is at their best and everyone is poorer as a result.
No, there is really only one way to lead effectively and sustainably – especially in a crisis – through love and care for others, by wanting the best for others, by looking for win-win outcomes.
Those are the leaders we remember and value, and are thankful for them being or having been in our lives. They leave a legacy that lasts and lives on through others even when no longer working directly with that leader.
Here a five key habits of leaders that lead with love and care for others.
BEING INCLUSIVE AND LISTENING
They involve others in dialogue, continuously. They listen for and value the input of others. They are willing to change their mind as they learn more.
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS TO COLLABORATION
They make it easier for people to be successful by being non-hierarchical, removing conflicting/competing goals, inviting the right people to the table. They are not afraid of bringing diverse groups of people to dialogue.
They don’t hesitate to push boundaries and find new solutions through diversity of thought and true collaboration.
They are genuinely interested in people, they like people, they take the time to connect with them and understand them. They value them for their unique contribution.
They are inspiring, and that is driven by them feeling inspired themselves. They seek inspiration as they know how impactful that is to all involved.
INSPIRING AND CREATING HOPE
They help people see that great things are possible here and now or around the corner.
Even in the darkest moments they are able to embody and convey a sense of purpose to all, while helping people see how they can contribute to that purpose and feel in charge of their own situation. They know that hope breeds hope which breeds great results.
Great leaders always inspire hope. They are not afraid to face realities, but also look for solutions and ways forward. They are realistic optimists.