What do you look like in crisis? More importantly, as a leader, what do you look to in those moments when a difficult or important decision must be made? Do you intend to imagine the worst-case scenario? Or are you more of a Pollyanna in the midst of difficulty?

Some days the crisis du jour looks like an urgent interruption, an unexpected phone call, bad news or an immediate team need. Other times, a crisis can require critical care quickly–natural disasters, long-term financial deficiencies, or data breaches. How you respond and lead your team through the crisis reveals a lot about your leadership.

Leaders define reality

Many leaders understand that during these times, keeping a clear mind and emotional consistency is important, but often they forget the value of optimism. I’m not talking about a Pollyanna-like outlook. Rather, a leader’s main job is to define reality.

However, solely defining reality in a crisis can leave individuals or the team as a whole feeling discouraged, distraught, and insecure.  A strong leader not only assesses reality, but leads through the difficult situation with an eye on the future, giving the team hope.

Leaders offer hope

Mark Cole, CEO of the John Maxwell Enterprise, has said, “Leaders are hope dealers.”

Transformational leaders are those who bring the “better” to a situation. Once the nature of a crisis is accurately defined, the effective leader will paint a picture of where the team is headed. That picture should include three key things:

  • A clear plan that identifies the challenges, as well as the opportunities presented by those challenges
  • The value each team member can bring to the solution
  • A vision of what the future could look like once the situation is resolved

Choosing to have an optimistic attitude in the midst of crisis will create the best opportunity for success in leading through the challenge. Cultivating that attitude in times of relatively small urgencies will train your “optimism muscle” for when those challenges grow. Remember that a crisis doesn’t make the leader. It reveals the leader and reminds the team that their best days are ahead.


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