How does a leader prepare for a crisis?
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

Leaders have to prepare for a crisis. However, it is one of the toughest events to prepare for. Our daily lives are so full, and we often do not even know how to begin to prepare for a crisis. But, prepare and adjust we must if we are to successfully navigate this, and the next, crisis. We need to be prepared so we can lead our teams and organizations now.

Our lifetimes are filled with change. Dramatic change and often hardship are caused by crises. This is why we must be prepared for them. If we are unprepared, we will leave ourselves, our families, our friends, and our communities without the leadership necessary to successfully navigate out of a crisis. The very definition of most widespread crisis is something we did not see coming and were generally unprepared for. However, most crises we can plan for ahead of time – if we take the time to do so.

There are entire professions that prepare for the crises of a community, nation, or even the world. First responders prepare for crises that effect individuals and communities. Firefighters, police officers, and paramedics all prepare for the events that suddenly happen in a community. Our military officers and enlisted men and women are prepared to go to war on short notice. Even parents are often prepared to intervene in a crisis that besets their children. Preparing for a crisis is necessary. What kind of crisis we could face is the first question we all must answer. Second, we must know what outcome we are seeking.

Trained professionals who deal with crises conduct scenario analyses to determine what it takes to be prepared for and to navigate through a crisis. They determine what resources will be necessary. They identify what skills and actions are needed to respond effectively. Then, they actually practice or simulate the crisis so they can begin to build muscle memory on how to act during a crisis. A crisis by nature is stressful, uncertain, and has the potential to have dire consequences. You don’t want to wait until it occurs to prepare. Why? That is how people get hurt and even die. This is why we have so much respect for first responders and our military. They are prepared to undertake extraordinary efforts to help and save others. They often do so while risking their own health and lives.

Large crises that impact entire regions or nations can be particularly difficult to prepare for and navigate through. A crisis like 9/11 and the COVID-19 pandemic are just such crises that we, as a nation, were unprepared for. However, many individuals and leaders stepped up during and after the crisis had begun to offer their service to so many others in need of help. This is what we need leaders and individuals to do during a crisis.

How prepared were you for this crisis? What have you learned so far while leading during this challenge? How has your team responded? How can you help them better navigate this period of time? What will you do differently next time a situation like this arises?

We can prepare for large and small crises as a leader. We can learn and adapt to the current crisis better. Increasingly, that is what is required of every leader. We all will face many crises in our lives. They may be personal, job-related, in our community, or at a national level. They may even be global. We know for sure we will see them and have to deal with them. The better prepared we are, the better we will lead through them toward a successful future.