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4 ways to be a resilient leader during the coronavirus crisis

A top executive coach says the best leaders recognize the harsh realities of the day and inspire people to believe we can power through the crisis.

4 ways to be a resilient leader during the coronavirus crisis
[Photo: Arthur Ogleznev/Unsplash]

There have been few times in our history that have demanded as much from our leaders as the coronavirus pandemic. One of the top qualities we need is resiliency—the ability to recognize the harsh realities of the day and inspire people to believe we can power through the crisis, and take action to do so.

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Carl Robinson, the founding partner of Vantage Leadership Consulting, a Chicago-based executive coaching firm, has these four recommendations for the kind of leaders we need.

Deliver a compelling message

Have a message that makes others want to believe and follow them in times of crisis. We all hope that the current crisis will come to an end, that the world will get back to “normal,” and that we all will be able to pursue our careers and lives with optimism. And so we look to those leaders who can chart a path forward.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is one such leader. He has a clear and inspiring message. In his press briefings he has consistently urged all Americans to take action in this war against COVID-19. His call is for “all hands on deck.”

Whatever your role and title, seize every opportunity to lead others to the “high ground” by giving them a vision of what’s possible and what’s needed to achieve the possible. And don’t be afraid to deliver the same message over and over again. Your followers need to know that you believe in it deeply.

Show confidence

No one will follow a leader who is halting in his style or uncertain about how things will turn out. A leader who is confident earns the trust of those around him.

“Confidence,” explains Robinson, “is born of experience. A leader who has weathered difficult times establishes an ability to work through these circumstances. That self-confidence comes from having bounded back before. This is very helpful for dealing with situations that companies are facing today.”

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Showing confidence means that you’ll have a game plan, and you’ll inspire your team to carry it out. Remember, it is a group effort. Having confidence also means consulting others and having the courage to seek input from the whole team. Ask for their ideas about next steps. They will appreciate being involved, and the outcome is likely to be better if you seek a diversity of viewpoints.

Be poised

“Poise,” as Robinson explains, “is the ability to respond appropriately to what’s going on without conveying negative emotions that may cause people to question your objectivity.” The word “poise” has its origin in the concept of balance or evenness. A leader who is poised recognizes and acknowledges the downside of events but balances that with optimism about the future.

Many managers, leaders, and business owners today are facing the awful task of laying off staff or radically cutting expenses to save the business. The important thing is to show a balanced perspective to your employees and teammates. On the one hand, you’ll want to show empathy for them and support them in every way you can. On the other, you need to keep the business safe and implement a plan to protect it.

Be tenacious

Resilient leaders have tenacity, or grit. They are not overwhelmed by the challenges they face, but they have determination to get beyond those obstacles.

This tenacity requires long-term thinking. As Robinson explains: “A resilient leader has an eye on the longer-term picture. A resilient leader is responsive, not simply reactive.” Those people who work for a leader who says, “We’re going to come through this,” become believers and followers.

Having this tenacity is particularly crucial in times of crisis, when the present reality can seem bleak and unsettling. The tenacious leader doesn’t give up just because the solution lies far into the future. Tenacious leaders are determined to see things through to the end. They don’t let anything get in the way of their commitment to creating a strong future.

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Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Reed Hastings—in fact, all successful entrepreneurs—have displayed a tenacity that got them through the toughest of times. They experienced failure but were not undone by it. They looked to the long term.

One can look at the current coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to develop resilient leadership. “When we at Vantage are evaluating executives, we’re very concerned with how they’ve handled adversity,” says Robinson.

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