There are many skills and personal traits that leaders should have in everyday business. During a crisis, a leader needs to have a range of specific traits that are crucial to the management of the incident. Here are three of those traits based on my personal experience from both the military and corporate environments:
1 – Listening is a Lost Art
The art of listening is something that only experienced and well trained crisis leaders do in the midst of an emergency. The ability to consume information at a rapid rate, and make decisions based on that information, is something that requires focus when listening to the details that a leader is being provided by his or her team.
2 – Trust
Having trust in your team is essential; you can’t do everything. I’ve seen leaders try to manage elements of incidents that should have been someone else’s responsibility, and a leader’s micromanagement is not good for the confidence of that individual or of the team that is being shadowed. Trust is built through training and exercises so that the leader and the team members have worked together in simulated situations and have learned to understand each other’s capabilities. But, as a leader, you also need to have the particular responsibility to maintain a 1000-foot view of the situation. Getting into the details will take your focus away from the bigger picture and overall crisis response strategy, which should be one of your main objectives.
3 – Don’t be Afraid of Failure
During the Chilean mining tragedy where 33 miners were trapped underground for 69 days, the leader of the incident tried several different rescue drilling options before they finally came up with one that worked. The ability to recover from a failure and change direction when something isn’t working is a key trait of any good leader. A leader who sits back and is reluctant to alter course as conditions change or hesitates as the crisis unfolds is not a leader. True leaders learn from failure and readjust to achieve success.