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  • Anthony K.G. Barbar

Leading in Crisis

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

To say that the last few months are unprecedented is an understatement. Businesses have been ordered closed, campuses have been ordered closed, beaches and parks are closed. What does the future hold? How long can this go on?

The short answer is nobody really knows. Things seem to heading in the right direction but it will take a few more months for us to really have a handle on the impact.

There is high level of anxiety and the stakeholders are all looking to the leaders for direction, and for the reassurance that they are not panicked. Instead of panicking, leaders should look at this as an opportunity to strengthen the organization for the future.

Here are some steps that I found helpful when leading through a crisis.

Act with Urgency

Waiting is not a winning strategy. You need to move strategically and thoughtfully, but also expeditiously. Against the natural tendency toward delay, acting with urgency means leaders jump in without all the information they would, and before the future is clear.

Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan provides a road map to be followed. Decisions made today will have long term consequences. Make sure those consequence strength not weaken the organization. Look for products, degrees, offerings that no longer fit. Now is an opportunity to eliminate them with the least amount of disruption.

Leaders must be on the same page

It is vital that the leadership team, especially the Board Chair and President, are on the same page. When these leaders are in “lock step” with each other, the rest of the organization feels safer.

Be in “the present”

Focus on the future, but be aware of the people around you.

Communicate with Transparency

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Communication creates confidence in the process, but make sure it 2-way communication. Share your process, i.e. In the strategic plan we agreed to do the following…Be open and honest; if you don’t know, say that, your transparency will help the organization as a whole. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the fear people have for the future, then following that up with a plan or the process to develop a plan.


Make sure your communication is not a monologue but a dialogue. It is important that your leadership team as well your constituents have a way to share their ideas and their fears. You won’t be able to assuage all fears, but at least they hear your reasoning. This allows you to keep people engaged.

Respond to Missteps

There are going to be missteps, acknowledge them when they occur. Don’t be defensive and please do not blame others. I understand that those are easier to write than do, but, in long term, you will be glad you did!

Realty is always a good friend, don’t avoid it.

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