A few years ago, Houston, Galveston, and surrounding areas were hit head-on with a Category 2 hurricane; the surge and size of the storm more closely rivaled a Category 4. It was a big deal. Damage estimates exceeded $10B, and that’s excluding the impact across the Midwest as Ike continued its trek northward. I mention Ike only since I was “there,” in the thick of it.
So, without worrying one whit about the politics of this crap, what can we learn by demonstrated leadership during times like these? Three things…
If you’re in charge, be in charge. No, that’s not a “duh!” comment. It means realizing that the buck stops with you. People are expecting leadership… Lead! People are expecting decision-making… Decide!
Even during a storm — weather or business — leadership must be purposeful and well-thought, allowing for proper perspective. But delaying simply from panic is a failure in leadership. Leadership is not for the faint of heart; if you’re not prepared to stick your neck out, you can’t be in front. Step aside and allow someone else to rise to the occasion.
Lead now, panic later. When storms come along, it’s natural to worry. Maybe even be really concerned and a little scared. The emotions themselves are ok, as long as we realize they have no place in observable behavior.
People don’t need their leaders to panic; they’re doing fine with that on their own. We need leaders to be solid, confident, and maybe even a little bit stoic. People must be able to easily discern “who’s in charge,” and the most obvious way to do that is to act the part.
Calm begets calm; panic begets panic. Be the example of calm.
Nobody wins the blame game. While the storm is “in session,” there’s no reason — and no need — to worry about who is or could be responsible for anything that may or may not have occurred. Let’s first make sure we make it past today — this storm — before worrying about whose neck we’re going to string up.
There’ll be plenty of time after the storm has passed to determine how to prevent similar mistakes from being made. Plenty of time to throw rocks, then duck and cover ourselves, since one or more may be lobbed in our direction.
Right now, pay attention to challenges at hand. Stay focused and purposeful.
Storms come and go. We all face hurricanes — business or weather — from time to time. It is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. How we react as leaders when the debris starts flying will define how others see us, even in times of calm.
A favorite phrase of mine: “Leading by example is not a decision. As a leader, you have no choice but to be an example. Now, whether a positive or negative example… that’s the choice.”
This is never more true than in times of storms and hurricanes.