I’m sitting at my desk, reviewing slides for an online training on crisis leadership I’m doing for a higher ed. association tomorrow, and I am smiling. Why? How can I smile when it seems that nothing is happening the way we planned or wanted? How can I see a gift in the most uncomfortable year higher ed. has ever seen? I’m smiling because every day, I see leaders becoming stronger and more confident.
Leading through crisis means letting go of our attachment to predictability and certainty. It means having to make decisions quickly and facilitating rapid change. Crisis calls for leaders to step up, be calm, inspire confidence, and stretch far out of their comfort zone. Managers who can’t find the courage to rise will have a painful year filled with avoidance, but true servant leaders will transform into better versions of themselves. And to me, that’s an excellent reason to smile.
In “normal” times, leaders are often pressured and limited because of their own beliefs and value systems. They live under a tyranny without realizing that they are their own tyrant. Their leadership is stifled by thoughts such as:
“I can’t do what I think is necessary because I am not absolutely sure it will work.”
“If I speak up, I’m afraid to look bad or sound incompetent.”
“There is an idea I’d like to implement but I don’t believe people will buy into it.”
“I can’t ask employees or faculty to change the way they do things, or they will hate me.”
“I’m too busy. I don’t have time to think about new strategies or how to innovate.”
“We need a multi-year plan to change anything significant.”Etc…
But look at what happened since March 2020! Leaders have been forced to make quick decisions without any reassurance that they wouldn’t have regrets later. Drastic changes were implemented almost overnight. What we didn’t think was possible was/became possible. Leaders no longer had the option to play it safe and act small.
Those who chose to be courageous are learning powerful lessons in self-empowerment, confidence, and trust. They will never again shy away from small discomfort because they are currently developing strength and resilience that will benefit every aspect of their lives. They are evolving and freeing themselves from the tyranny of their own fears and insecurities.
Becoming comfortable with uncertainty
When the future is highly unpredictable, some people freeze because they don’t have access to the information they need to make an educated decision. Their preference is to wait until the information becomes available. However, in times of crisis, waiting is simply not an option. Decisions must be made, even in the absence of clarity. What most people don’t realize is that over-analyzing without taking action cannot result in valuable insights. The best and fastest way to learn is through trial and error. Taking action and course-correcting when necessary is the way to gain clarity.
If you don’t know what to expect, that’s ok! Do your due diligence to learn what you can now and act! You’ll receive feedback, which will allow you to refine your approach. Since everything changes so rapidly, you’ll need to be flexible and change your plans when you move from one stage to the next. The more you do it, the easier it will get.
What’s stopping you?
If you are reading this and thinking “yes, but…” please listen to what arguments your mind is making to shy away from being confident and bold. Some leaders work in a shockingly unsupportive environment and will fear being punished if they make a mistake, but I sincerely believe this is rare. More often than not, the person we fear is ourselves. We are afraid of having regret, afraid of making a mistake, afraid of being unable to forgive ourselves, afraid to look bad, afraid of disappointing others, afraid of being less effective than if we let someone else lead etc.
Be honest with yourself. What are you afraid of?
Some people are also afraid of change. They don’t know how to act without following tradition and repeating past habits. Crisis brings a tremendous opportunity to break free from the limitations of outdated processes and preferences. Higher ed. has no choice but to become more agile, innovative, and responsive to students’ needs. We need leaders with open minds and creative ideas. Now is the time to adapt and become stronger.
Seek progress, not perfection
Another common obstacle to leadership through crisis is leaders’ perfectionist tendencies. They must accept the fact that they can’t aim for perfection because in these uncertain times, nobody even knows what perfection would be! Seek progress, find ways to move forward, and find solutions to problems, even if they are temporary.
Please understand that doing your best is literally the best you can do! And it’s more than enough. Take full ownership of your actions and decisions, trust yourself more, and expect good outcomes instead of giving yourself anxiety by picturing the worst things that could happen. That’s it! Step up. Do what you have to do, and there will be no time left to torture yourself over-thinking your doubts and insecurities.
You can do this!!! Or even better, let’s do this together. I invite you to click here to schedule a complimentary call with me and discuss how I can empower you to turn this crisis into fuel for growth and success. Or if you are curious about the training I am offering to my client tomorrow and would like me to do a webinar with your team
About the author:
Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.