Leaders Aren’t Best Judged in Crisis, No Matter What You’ve Heard

We are in a crisis. Everyone would agree with this.

It’s been popular since the beginning of time to judge people based on their best moment. Stand up tall, when others are small and you are destined for greatness in history. No matter when you did before or after.

Rudy Giuliani, by most, is considered a great leader of our time for his leadership in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He was in charge when the towers came down. He said and did the right things during that time. He will be forever remembered for that time in his legacy.

The reality is, leaders are not best judged in times of crisis.

Great leaders should not be judged by how they reacted in a once in a lifetime event, but how they act every day. On good days, average days, bad days, and very rarely on crisis days. The problem is we aren’t paying attention on normal days. We don’t see the greatest. So, we judge them on the few times we see them, which are either celebrations or catastrophes.

Crisis management is incredibly difficult by leadership teams at organizations. You try with all of your might to put your own situation aside, but it’s always there in the background, while you try and do what’s best for all involved. The hardest thing a leader will ever do is make the decision that some will have to lose their job, so the majority can keep their job. Even putting your own name on that list of cuts, isn’t as difficult.

Nobody wants to be judged by his or her worst moment. In crisis management, we tend to have a lot of worst moments because we are often making quick decisions with limited information that in hindsight looks foolish.

As we are all going through some level of crisis management currently, I wanted to share Professor Scott Galloway’s three steps of crisis management from his NYU class he teaches on the same subject:

  1. Top Guy or Gal Takes Responsibility
  2. Acknowledge the Issue
  3. Overcorrect

Overcorrect is the key. Well, I’m not sure if we should do this, let’s just wait a little while longer and see what happens. NO! Overcorrect. Make the safest choice possible. Make the best choice possible for your people. Act swiftly.

If we watch, we will see great leadership moments in any crisis. Some of these moments will be by great leaders doing great leader stuff. Some of these moments will be done by idiots who just happen to be in the right place and make the right decision. Don’t confuse a moment of leadership competence with being a great leader.

Great leaders don’t just show up for a crisis, they show up every day.

 

2 thoughts on “Leaders Aren’t Best Judged in Crisis, No Matter What You’ve Heard

    • I don’t agree with that. That being said, anyone leader who has never been in a crisis situation couldn’t be a great leader, right? Or what if a leader was in three crisis situations and did awesome the first one, awful the second, and great the third. How do you judge that? What if 99.99% did awful in a certain crisis, do they all get a pass?

      That was my entire post – I don’t think you need to be great during a crisis to be a great leader. you probably can’t be awful, but if you’re just solid, and kill everything else, you still can make great leaders status.

      We put way too much emphasis on how someone performs in one-off situations versus the vast majority of their work.

      T

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