5 Ways a Leader Responds as a Crisis Begins

by | Mar 16, 2020 | Church Leadership

Leader, how should we respond when a crisis comes?

I love the leadership displayed during a scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where George Bailey is about to leave for his honeymoon and panic struck the Building and Loan. As the president, he was forced to avert his plan, go back and save the company. He kept the Building and Loan open with a couple of dollars to spare. It was a tense moment. Everything they had worked for was at risk, but the crisis was solved — at least until the next crisis came.

This is the kind of time I’m referring to as a leader.

How do you respond?

There have been several times where it appeared everything was a loss on the team I was leading. I’ve experienced it in planning a single project, as well as with the entire company felt in jeopardy when I was a small business owner. We experienced it when I was a Mayor Pro-Tem and our city was devastated by a tornado, or when I was pastoring a large church and our community experienced catastrophic flooding.

At the outset of a crisis, how should the leader respond?

The way the leader responds in crisis always dictates the way the team responds. Click To Tweet

I must admit, I haven’t always handled these times as well as George Bailey, but experience has taught me a few things.

Here are 5 ways to respond at the beginning of a crisis:

Slow down

The general tendency is to speed up, but “haste makes waste”. You need to move quickly, and sometimes you have to put out some initial flames, but as much as you can, slow down long enough to think before you react.

Don’t panic

You may indeed be in a panic on the inside, but your outer composure as a leader will set the thermostat of your team. The team’s emotions will almost always be an exaggerated version of the leader’s emotions. If you appear hopeless, the teams emotions will appear even more hopeless.

Get a plan

After you’ve addressed the most pressing needs — brought more of a sense of calm to the team — back away long enough to create a plan of recovery. This includes gathering information from as many sources as possible and seeking input from wise advisors. It could be the best exit plan you can develop, but either way, you need a plan.

In crisis mode, this sometimes seems like a waste of time. The thought is often if the ship is sinking you just need everyone to help bail water. In my experience, however, getting a plan in place makes a difference in the quality of your leadership through the crisis. This probably requires pulling a team together to quickly brainstorm and strategize.

Navigate carefully

Once a plan is in place, you need to become an implementer of the plan or at least the lead delegator of implementation. You’re the coach, cheerleader, and captain of the ship at this point. You keep the team on task towards the end goal.

Help the team recover

After the dust settles from the crisis, the leader’s job isn’t complete until you help the team recover. This involves learning from what happened, making readjustments as needed, and helping the team begin again. In the best scenarios, this thought process begins to happen even during the crisis mode, giving the team some hope of better days to come.

We all hope to avoid those days of crisis on the team, but it helps to have a paradigm of how we should respond if or when they ever come.

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Ron Edmondson

I am CEO of Leadership Network. I was previously pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church, a church leader and the planter of two churches. I am passionate about planting churches but also helping established churches thrive. I love assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy, and life. My specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to my role as a pastor, as I have time, I consult with church and ministry leaders. I have more than 35 years of leadership experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and have been in full-time ministry for over 15 years. I have successfully led the restart of one church and the planting of two churches, and now we are seeing God’s hand tremendously in church revitalization. I have a seminary masters and a master’s in organizational leadership. I also once helped lead (as an elected official) a mid-sized city, where I served as Vice Mayor and Finance Chair. The greatest times for me are with my wife Cheryl and our amazing adult sons, Jeremy, his wife Mary, and our youngest son Nate. Over 20 years ago, I founded a non-profit ministry called Mustard Seed Ministry, which provides devotional resources, conducts family, marriage, and parenting, and church leadership seminars. My INTJ personality on the Myers-Briggs indicator means I have big ideas, I love creative and critical thinking and I love to see progress. I am usually around people but crave downtime. For years I was usually training for either a half or full marathon. Running was my most productive thinking time. Knee problems in recent years have caused me to stop running, but I’m committed to finding the time I need to fuel my mind, body, and spirit. I write several times weekly on leadership, church, and family. To sign up for my blog on a reader or by email, click HERE. I do interact with my readers, so feel free to contact me. You can email me at ron.edmondson@gmail.com.I am also on Google+ at http://www.gplus.to/ronedmondson, Twitter at www.twitter.com/ronedmondson and Facebook at www.facebook.com/ronaedmondson. My devotional site is www.mustardseedministry.com