During the first five months of 2020 we’ve experienced multiple crises. People started the year preparing their vision for 2020, drawing a comparison with having 20/20 visual acuity. But I’m sure no one had this vision for five months filled with:
- Political uncertainty
- A pandemic
- Economic meltdown
- Supply chain interruption
- Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, killer hornets
- Senseless killings, protests, and riots
Any one of these crises requires good leadership to navigate through it. But for leaders in government, businesses, community services, health care, and families, to manage all of it together is overwhelming. Yet every organization has some role based on their purpose, to address these situations. And as people are looking for solutions, answers, and a way forward, it’s the responsibility of leaders to offer hope in the midst of turmoil.
Wikipedia defines hope as “an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.” Great leaders offer hope when they step forward and guide the members of their organizations toward positive outcomes.
- Great leaders espouse values that align with their people’s needs. Organizations are defined by their culture, and culture is described by the basic underlying assumptions, espoused values, and the artifacts therein. In joining organizations of any type, the goal is to ensure appropriate alignment between the values of the organizational and its members. Leaders determine and communicate those values. Their behaviors and decisions should reflect those values. Thus, if leaders say that customers and employees are first priority, it should be evident. In our current crises, companies that make decisions to concentrate on profits above people are being called out by individuals who don’t share those values. When the health and welfare of so many are being threatened, people want leaders who identify with and prioritize their needs. They need leaders who will give voice to their concerns.
- Great leaders describe a vision for the future that meets those needs. In spite of the crises, people want clarity on the way forward. Yes, they do want 20/20 vision even though they know it’s next to impossible. However, this is an opportunity for leaders to paint a picture of a better, brighter future that is a source of motivation and inspiration. It includes where they want the organization to go and how to get there. It’s a memorable and engaging expression that is achievable and aligns with organizational values.
- Great leaders develop a strategy to accomplish the vision. The vision must be backed up by a strategy to accomplish it. This is an obviously complex process for the myriad of organizations to tackle. It requires clear decisions, specific goals, accountability, and given the magnitude of these crises, may necessitate changes to the current operating structure, policies, and processes, and even leaders themselves. It’s also important to involve members of organizations in developing and executing the solutions to these crises. People who care want to be active in the finding a way forward. They want their work to have meaning.
- Great leaders communicate effectively and frequently. Effective communication builds trust. Leaders establish and strengthen connection with others by showing concern and providing information and guidance. And most of all, leaders share truth. Trust and truth go hand in hand here. A colleague recently shared with me that she would feel comfortable going shopping and eating out again not just when she saw data about declining pandemic numbers, but when she believed it. She, unfortunately, wasn’t sure that the information she was reviewing was accurate.
- Great leaders show they care. Leaders who care talk more about others’ concerns than they talk about themselves. They sense others’ feelings and perspectives, take an active interest in their needs, and pick up on cues as to what is being felt and thought. Several days ago, in the midst of the nationwide demonstrations, a sheriff in Flint, Michigan put down his baton and walked with the crowd saying that he wanted to make it a parade, not a protest. He told them he wanted to make sure they had a voice. His leadership formed a constructive bond of trust with the group.
We continue to hear these times described as uncertain and unprecedented. Now more than ever, we need leaders to offer hope. We need leaders who can navigate a path forward to a clearer tomorrow and a brighter future for everyone within their organization.