As many of you know, I am an avid reader.
I read fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, newspapers, magazines, and online articles; anything I can get my hands on. I take notes. I have notebooks full of things I learned from each book I have read in the past four years. Sometimes I carry that obsession even further and write book reviews.
Some time ago, I wrote one for “The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company” by Robert Iger. Iger is the executive chairman, chairman of the board, and former CEO (2005-2020) of The Walt Disney Company. Although written pre-pandemic, Iger’s Principles for True Leadership continue to ring true. They are even more important today as we continue to find our way through the current crisis. All of his principles resonate with me, I hope some of them resonate with you.
First and foremost is the principle of integrity. While it is critical for leaders to function at the highest ethical standards, it is even more so during a crisis. Additional internal and external influences come into play. Opportunities present themselves as organizations struggle to adjust to the crisis. Processes and procedures relax due to staffing shortages which gives way to temptation.
“Fraud risk factors increase at a time of crisis because companies and individuals face more financial pressures, the opportunity for fraud increases if key internal controls weaken, and people find it easier to rationalize their actions.” (ey.com)
Integrity is all about being true to your values, personal and professional (hint: they should match). Leaders cannot let down their guard, employees are watching you. What you say and do when things are at a low point will have an impact surpassing the length of the crisis. Stay the course.
Optimism. Your revenue is tanking, you have had to lay off or terminate employees, the ones still working are taking on additional duties possibly increasing their stress and anxiety, and my advice is to be optimistic? Yes, because as Iger points out, people are not motivated by pessimists. “Pessimism leads to paranoia.” We must find the balance between being realistic and optimistic. We must look beyond the crisis while dealing with the crisis. We must give hope.
The importance of decisiveness during a crisis can not be underestimated. The leader’s ability to make sound decisions quickly, even when you can’t see the future, is paramount in setting direction for your organization and your people. It is one thing to make decisions and another to have the courage to carry them out. To quote Iger once more, “Chronic indecision (and lack of action) is not only inefficient and counterproductive, but it is deeply corrosive to morale.”
Communicate, communicate, communicate. I once heard that for communication to be effective you need to repeat the message six times in six different ways. There is no such thing as over-communication in times of crisis. Clear, concise communication. How many ways have you found to communicate your message?