About the Crisis Leadership Forum

To better understand the leadership dimensions of crisis situations, the Center for Creative Leadership convened a forum with formal and emergent leaders who played a role in Hurricane Katrina. We overlaid this conversation between crisis leaders with the perspectives of discussants with expertise in disaster, terrorism, public health, and leadership. This blog site is intended to continue this conversation.

To read the report on the Crisis Leadership Forum, please click here.

To read CCL's Leading Effectively newsletter on the Forum, please click here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Managing Self in a Crisis

In an insightful blog post, Brian Bacon, CEO of Oxford Leadership Academy, writes of how our self-image shapes how we react in a crisis:

People with an outside-in obsession also have their sense of security linked to situations outside of themselves; hence they often look and feel out of control. This is disastrous for a leader. During times of crisis, the external environment is chaotic and uncontrollable… a person may lose his job, or feel unable to do a good job, or be thrust into a position beyond his ability to succeed. He may feel inadequate to the task. So, if one’s self-image and sense of security is linked to the external environment he will be in turmoil internally to an even greater extent. Why? Because fear is an illuminator and exaggerator of truth.

Intense fear of failure is an inevitable condition of those whose self-image is based on this outside-in illusion. How will I look? What will people think? Can I make it work? Are the conditions right for me to succeed? What if I fail? What is plan B? These are not the right questions for a leader.

The leader who outperforms during times of crisis is the one whose strength and conviction is generated from the inside-out, not the outside-in. The one who will not be swayed by flattery, fear or force, that’s the fellow we will follow, in spite of his flaws.
A few good questions to help define your purpose and what generates meaning: What story do I presently tell myself and others about who I am? What drives me? What motivates me to keep going? What is my passion? What are my most valuable assets? What is most valuable to me in life? What can I rely on, even if everything else is taken away? How can I change my story to be more aligned with what I know is true?

Brian Bacon concludes:

The economic crisis is here. You don’t have a choice in it happening or not, but you can choose the attitude you adopt towards it. This year will inevitably mark the beginning of a new chapter. There are outside factors, of course, but whether it will be the best chapter ever, or perhaps the worst, will, to a great extent, depend upon the attitude you choose.

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