Getting Through the Storm – 4 Essential Acts of Leadership

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In 2008/9 another great storm was blowing – the Global Financial Crisis.

I was working with Jim Collins on an event we were hosting in South Africa.

Collins had just released his newest book, How The Mighty Fall.

We wanted to help business executives prepare for the actions they had to take to get through the crisis.

Collins challenged us with a question. “What can you do and what must you do to not waste the opportunities presented by this time of crisis.”

It’s the same question facing us today.

COVID 19 has changed everything. Many businesses are in grave danger. Caught off guard by severe and rapid change. Threatened by big forces acting out of our control.

Every business is vulnerable. There is no law of nature to protect you.

The statistics are clear. They tell us more organisations end up irrelevant in the long run than successful.

Who would ever choose to be irrelevant?

Collins concluded there are 3 types of enterprises when they enter a time of storm.

  • Category Ones: Strong going in. Able to take advantage of opportunities because they are strong and uniquely positioned.
  • Category Two’s: Not as strong as they would like. They can take advantage of opportunities but it’s limited. They also have to protect themselves. Making sure they don’t fall and ultimately fail.
  • Category Three’s: Weak when the crisis hits. There’s only 1 priority – SURVIVAL.

In which category are you?

Which do you fall into? How will you respond to get through the storm?

Most organisations fall into Category Two.

Not as strong as you would like to be.

Your response is a combination of defense and offense.

You have to protect. To defend. Here it’s about essential acts of preservation relating to costs, operational efficiency and cash.

But only to defend, risks becoming withdrawn and inward-looking. Even becoming paralysed. Inviting inaction.

Uncertainty, anxiety, and fear can get inside you. It can demoralize you.

Remember, it’s not only what must you do but, what can you do.

Can-do puts you on the front foot … back in control.

Can do exercises your leadership to get you going again. It gets you looking out into the world asking; “how can we be relevant at this time of crisis?”

This unlocks your creative energy and directs it to a purpose. It places you on the cusp of a breakthrough. To making a potential leap so you find the opportunity in the crisis.

However you respond, there are 4 leadership opportunities not to be missed right now.

The opportunity to:

  • Bind your team tightly together … with a special emphasis on deepening vulnerability-based trust. Use this time to unify, remove personal reservations, and face outward together.
  • Create clarity. Get clear on how you can be relevant to the world right now. Create a temporary rallying cry, just for this time. Do this by answering the question: “How do we want our business to be different 3 months from now? “
  • Over-communicate. Share the rallying cry widely. Mobilise your organisation through communication and action. Give people meaningful roles. Get them involved in creating the future.
  • Set new meeting rhythms. Meetings are more important than ever before. Concentrate on the task. But also embrace the humanity and emotion of your people. Behind every screen is a person. A human being, struggling to master their own fears and uncertainties.

In normal times we refer to these as the 4 disciplines of organisational health.

In the time of the storm, we call them the 4 Essential Acts of Leadership.

Acts to build hope and confidence … to build the belief that we will be OK. And, that possibly, we will even use this time to build something that is new and outstanding.

Decline, Collins concludes, is largely self-inflicted.

We are not imprisoned by our circumstances.

Be the company that emerges stronger …

We love hearing from you. Please comment on the post below.

In case you missed last month’s post, “10 Powerful Questions for Senior Leaders” please click here.

If you’d like to be in touch please call me on +27 82 894 4288 or mail me on

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