What Leaders Do First in a Crisis Defines Them
An oft-repeated maxim gets to the heart of who people really are. Crisis doesn’t create character; it reveals it.
In other words, how a person responds in a crisis best reflects their true character. When the chips are down, people of quality step up. This is especially true for leaders, but with an added twist. What leaders do first after learning of an egregious error or colossal misstep most reflects who they are as leaders.
How leaders immediately respond when negative events threaten the credibility of the enterprise most determines their own credibility in the eyes of those they lead. The recipe others rely upon to judge a leader in a moment of crisis is a constant.
It goes something like this: When things go wrong, the best leaders look for solutions before they look for the responsible party.
Leaders who turn toward remedy and solution as their first move demonstrate their commitment to others and their understanding that assigning blame is always less productive than charting a path forward.
By focusing on a practical solution to the problem and postponing the need to find the responsible party and punish them, the best leaders show themselves to be above the petty emotions of everyday life. They showcase the fact that they are action-oriented and practical leaders with an eye toward solving the problem to the benefit of everyone involved or impacted by the issue.
Understanding why a particular error was made often informs the solution to the problem. But spending any time initially on who contributed to the misstep is a fatal flaw. There’s plenty of time to do that. Only after the fire has been doused and the crisis has passed should leaders focus their attention on the responsible parties and deal with them appropriately.
Leaders who move quickly toward solving issues and delay assigning blame stand out for who they are. The thermometer of credibility rises when leaders follow the order of solution and then blame, not the other way around.
We most admire leaders who make solving the problem their highest priority. Can you blame us?