Posted by: Art Heinz | October 7, 2009

True North

iStock_000001147480XSmallI recently ran across one of the best books on leadership I’ve seen in a while – Seven Lessons for Leading in Crisis by Bill George. The book points out the real reason so many leaders in the corporate and financial world failed to effectively lead before and during the recent crisis. He submits that leaders fail when they do not follow their “True North” or the internal compass of their beliefs, values, and principles in the midst of the crisis when the pressure is on.

When a business executive lies to his shareholders and the SEC about corporate profits instead of sharing the reality he has left his true north. When a politician leads by opinion poll rather than by conviction he has abandoned his true north. When a teacher seduces the student instead of maintaining proper boundaries he has forgotten his true north. When a ministry leader tries to win the whole world to Jesus and loses his family he has lost his true north.

No one likes a crisis and we do not enjoy the pressure life sometimes brings in the marriage, family, workplace, or ministry, but as an English proverb says, “A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.” In other words, the training ground for leading in a crisis is the crisis itself. George points out that the Chinese character for “crisis” is made from the symbols of two words, danger and opportunity. Yes there is danger in the midst of the crisis but there is also an unprecedented opportunity to turn the situation around and make the adjustments that can take us to the next level. I hope you will find the following lessons for leading in crisis as practical and encouraging as I do:

1.  Face reality starting with yourself (acknowledge your role in the crisis so you can move on to help solve it).

2.  Don’t be Atlas but get the world off your shoulders (you cant’ go through it alone so reach out and let others share the burden and this will build chemistry and bonds in your team).

3.  Dig deep for the root cause (there are no quick fixes and quick fixes only mask the real problem – to fix the problem we must first understand the root cause and then implement permanent solutions).

4.  Get ready for the long haul (this is probably just the tip of the iceberg so be prepared mentally for a drawn out process).

5.  Never waste a good crisis (the crisis is a wonderful opportunity to make some major strategic changes).

6.  You are in the spotlight so make sure you follow your true north (everyone is watching what you do to see if you will focus on your values or succumb to the pressure to look good or accomplish your goals at any cost).

7.  Go on the offense (focus on winning now rather than on whining, complaining, licking your wounds or blaming others).

There’s something on you and it’s the blessing – you are destined to win so don’t give up in the middle of the crisis!

“If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength” (Proverbs 24:10, NIV).


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