8 steps on how to lead through crisis
In these unparalleled days of a global pandemic, Tim Alford provides vital steps for leaders to make as they take responsibility and manage how they respond to significant change.
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“We are living in unprecedented days.” It’s the most overused phrase of the moment, but with good reason… it is absolutely true.
With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the globe we have found ourselves very suddenly in a radically different world, where the things we have always taken for granted in ministry - pretty much all of which involve meeting together - are no longer viable. We are, indeed, living in unprecedented days.
As leaders, then, we have found ourselves switching to crisis-mode overnight. We have been presented with a host of challenges that we could not have anticipated and were not prepared for. There is much uncertainly, anxiety, isolation and fear. We do not know how this will all end. We do not have the answers. In short, this is a time when leaders must lead.
So how do we lead through a crisis?
1. Action over reaction
Undoubtedly this is a time to act… but not to react. It is a time for clear decisions, not hurried conclusions; decisive action, not panicked reaction. To be clear, I am not advocating we be slow in responding - indeed this is a moment where speed takes precedence over perfection - but I am encouraging us to process our decision making properly rather than leaping at the first resolution we find.
This is especially the case when the decisions we make impact the people we lead, rather than just the behind-the-scenes processes that help us to keep things moving. The real danger of hurried decision making is that we don’t involve God in the process. Remember, God speaks in the stillness, so we must not allow crisis-management to rob us of the time we require to sit at his feet and listen to his voice. We need his guidance now more than ever if we are to make the decisive decisions required for such a time as this.
2. Peace over panic
In a moment where people are stockpiling pasta and toilet roll - actions fuelled by panic - leaders must evidence the peace that passes understanding in their words and actions. I do not believe this is a moment for rousing speeches and raised voices, which further escalate anxiety, this is a time for kind smiles, gentle words and loving actions. It is a moment that leaders must engage with the right balance of gravity and humour; sincerity and joy. So leader, be the calm in the storm for the people you lead at this time.
3. Present over perfect
When we have spent years perfecting our programmes and presentations, and the rug is suddenly pulled from under our feet, it can feel distressing if we are unable to replicate the same quality online that we are delivering week after week in person. Thus the temptation is to give the majority of our energy and effort to perfecting our online presentations, often at the expense of being available to our people.
But when all this is said and done, people won’t remember how slick our live stream was, they will remember that we cared; that we were present; that we were available.
4. Community over content
As we seek to find alternatives to our gathering moments, let’s prioritise community over content. There is so much content available with a quick Google search. There are unlimited devotional videos, sermon podcasts, and Bible courses literally at our fingertips. But what people are lacking in these days is community. We are, quite literally, isolated.
So prioritise resolutions that enable interaction overconsumption; connection over presentation. This is not the moment for everyone to become the next Instagram Influencer, this is a moment to serve the group of people that God has entrusted uniquely to us.
5. Innovation over substitution
Since the coronavirus made meeting together untenable, I have seen (and indeed, attempted) a lot of substituting our usual programmes for online alternatives. This is good and effective in the short term, but once you settle into new rhythms of connecting I want to encourage you to take it one step further: rather than simply substituting your existing programmes with online alternatives, use this opportunity to innovate entirely new approaches to ministry.
Every natural transition presents an opportunity for innovation. This pandemic is undoubtedly a global challenge, but it is also an incredible opportunity for creativity. I believe that in these days we will discover new methods that will continue to serve us when the crisis has abated.
6. Important things over every-thing
Do not try to do everything you used to do, instead focus your attention on the most important things and do them well. This is the time to make some painful decisions about stopping some really good things to focus in on the most important things. Let your priorities rise to the top and say no to everything else. Better to do a few things well than everything poorly.
This is a moment where the less you do the more you accomplish. So leader, put first things first, identify your priorities, and give the best of your time and attention to doing them well.
7. Reality over naivety
Make no mistake, COVID-19 is a crisis on a global scale, the likes of which we have arguably not seen since World War II. In short, it’s a big deal. And in times like these, leaders are always willing to name the season; to confront the brutal facts and act on the implications. Conversely, the trap we can fall into is that, in a genuine attempt to encourage our people and ease their anxiety, we make naive comments or empty promises that have no guarantee of coming to pass.
This is a time to ‘call a spade a spade'; to acknowledge the severity of the situation whilst leaning heavily into the hope we have in Jesus. With that said…
8. Hope over fear
This is a time for hope over fear. We believe in a miracle-working God. He is greater than any virus. He is not shaken by this pandemic. He has not been taken by surprise. He still has authority. He is still good. Friends, we have a hope and a future! We need not be overwhelmed, we need not be anxious, our eternity is secure!
This is the time, then, for leaders to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful! So let us lead the way by demonstrating the hope we have in Jesus and allow that hope to permeate through the people we lead. If you inspire hope in others in these uncertain days, you are a leader.
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