I recently read a book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, that described adaptive challenges as “gaps generated by bold aspirations amid challenging realities”.
Let me break this down.
Bold showing a willingness to take risks; confident and courageous.
Aspiration a hope or ambition of achieving something
Challenging testing one’s abilities; demanding.
Realities a thing that is actually experienced or seen, especially when this is unpleasant.
So basically, adaptive challenges is the willingness to be courageous, hopeful and carryout ambition in achieving something even when the circumstances around you are completely unpleasant, uncomfortable and unprecedented.
Adaptive challenges are times where leadership is tested to be innovative, creative, and develop solutions that others are not. These are moments and gaps where a few individuals show up and shine because they do not allow the pressures to tear them a part, but they allow their leadership to confront the dilemma and adapt. Leadership does not come from the top down, but it is diffused in every level and we need to be ready to show up in times like today for both our professional and personal lives. It takes both the macro and micro changes to create ripples that overall make genuine progress.
In regard to today and adaptability in leadership, the biggest challenge is not actually the pandemic itself, but it is you. It is having the ability to identify what truly makes your heart beat and the pains that you believe are worth addressing and pursuing solutions for.
As individuals (who I consider all leaders in one capacity or another) this is a time that we need to adaptable more than ever. We also need to start to listen to what is going on around us. This is more than our agenda; this is something we are experiencing together, and we need to start listening. We have to understand people, and go beyond our own struggles, but hear and comprehend what others are enduring as well.
We need to step out, have courage and grab a hold of the greater purpose we were all made for. Even as we are distanced, let us start to be more present, more intentional and continue to adapt daily.
Let us create a new narrative of what is today and stop wishing for what was.
Let us pivot and continue to create even through hardship.
Let us grow in our tenacity and our willingness to do good even in the frustrating moments. Let us push through negativity and find the sunshine.
More so, let us be there for each other.
This time will pass. This season will be part of memories in years to come. Through all of it though, when we reflect back – my hope is that we see a time where we grew closer to our purpose and showed up even when it was hard.
From your fellow friend who is always here to listen,
We have to recognize and understand that we are in a global crisis, which cannot go ignored. In everything we do, we are being affected.
As a leader, I have not exactly been in a situation like this and have been taking it day by day. I am having to learn how to problem solve in new ways for our collective and be a bit more proactive than normal, trying my best to project and anticipate our next move. One of my priorities is to ensure the safety of our artisans and staff and on the other hand, I have to consider how to keep our collective above water, so when our doors reopen, well, they can reopen. With uncertain revenue streams in the coming months, it makes a lot of uncontrollable arise and I have to ensure we are making wise as well as creative/innovative decisions in the next coming weeks.
All that to say, it has tested a new strand of leadership for me.
Ethical Crisis Leadership.
With my academic background in leadership development and communication, I tend to live and breathe all things leadership. I have spent the last decade studying ethical leadership, transformational leadership, servant leadership, adaptive leadership and many more, but I have never encountered a leadership that is completely transformed by a crisis.
As soon as COVID-19 entered our world, I started grabbing resources and reading about crisis management, ethical leadership (redefined), and leading in a culture of change.
I wanted to understand what it was going to take to be even more resilient, evoke confidence in our team, and continue to run our collective with our highest standards even in the midst of this pandemic. This could easily turn into a research analysis, which is not my intention for this blog and for you to endure…
(note: unless, you love research then give me a call and I can chat your ear off for hours! Perfect time to spend quarantining – geeking out over theories while sipping fresh coffee)
What I do want to leave you with in this blog is a bit of advice on how to effectively lead a team during a culture of change and crisis.
Understand that in a crisis, there are three stages and throughout each stage, you have to show up fully. As the leader, you have moral obligations to carry out and you want to ensure that you continue to lead a healthy organization or team through this. The three stages of a crisis are: pre-crisis, crisis event, and post-crisis.
This is normally the longest stage in any crisis and many times, leaders get overly confident that they have all the solutions. This is where we need to be careful and not grow complacent or allow any human biases (decision making or judgement) to hinder our critical thinking processes.
In this time, ethical leaders show up big. They normally help detect the crisis, identify pain points and continually develop strategies. They are constantly learning, growing and looking for long term solutions rather than just the short term. They are identifying trends and trying to stay ahead of the curve, while leading their team with the right information. Most of the time, a crisis management plan is put into place and through this planning it allows for the leader to keep moral principles aligned as they plan during a new territorial time.
This is where ethical leaders are the most involved and active. They are leading in a crisis and the reality is focusing on damage control and the immediate threats that are affecting the individuals and/or organization around them. This is where the crisis management plan is put into place, but it is also a time where the leader is giving accurate information to those around them. During a crisis, there is a lot of misinformation and false news that circulates, so it is of utmost importance for the ethical leader to be transparent, sharing the most appropriate and true information to date. This is a time for the leader to shed light on the situation, enact a plan and calm fears through proper solutions. Take deep breathes and take it day by day as this stage can also be the most physically and mentally exhausting.
This is a time of reflection and regrouping. As an ethical leader, it is a time to reflect on what was done right, make notes of what can be changed in the future, but more importantly to be there for your people. It is a time for healing to take place and as leaders, a time to listen and be there for your direct community. This stage is a time to renew focus and replace negative emotions of stress and anxiety with positive ones. Ethical leaders pay attention to details and shape memories around a crisis to honor those around them, while finding ways to heal and take steps forward.
Overall, understand that through these three stages, as leaders we have to be adaptive, flexible and show up BIG in ethical crisis leadership. Here are my 3 practical tips for you to be able to work through these phases:
1. Understand the Change
In everything, understand the change going on around you. Try not to be negatively affected by media, but have your facts correct. People are looking to you for answers and what the next step will be, so you want to be giving the most accurate and up to date information to your people. Stay in tune, so you are able to communicate the changed vision and empower those around you during a time of uncertainty.
2. Moral Purpose
Keep integrity. Through it all, being an ethical crisis leader is challenging and comes with its own stresses, but this is a time to shine. Allow your moral compass to never change. Be a moral agent for your community and help others overcome opposition through your positive character and courage. It is a time to show up and be the moral motivation that everyone needs during a time like this.
3. Be Sensitive
Everyone is affected differently in a crisis, so be an active listener, change perspectives by putting yourself in their shoes and practice humility. This is a time to reflect servant leadership and be there for your community in a new way. In all the phases, know people are looking up to you and it is our time to show a more sensitive side to our leadership, if you do not already.
You got this friend. Stay strong, true and be the ethical crisis leader you were meant to be. We are in this together, always.