Leading Through Crisis

By Dr. Jack Graham

Leadership is a privilege. It can be challenging, especially in these times of crisis. But it is when we are in the crucible that true leadership is revealed.

Crises can take different forms. They can be personal, political, financial, relational, and in the case of this COVID-19 pandemic, a mixture of all of these. When we face significant leadership tests, our leadership is on trial.

John Maxwell, leadership guru, reminds us, “In life, you are either preparing or repairing.”

This is so true because we are either in a crisis, or one is on its way. Failure, crisis, and problems are opportunities for new beginnings. In the midst of all of the chaos, do not forget that opportunity is often brilliantly disguised as adversity. Adverse circumstances can actually advance us if we lead well.

Crisis is a dangerous opportunity. Nothing will elevate you as a leader more than successfully navigating through storms or crises.

Currently, I am thinking a lot about Billy Graham’s words, “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration; but fruit is grown in the valleys.”

Crisis is a dangerous opportunity. Our greatest successes can come from our greatest disappointments. God encourages us with this truth again and again. Look at James 1:2–4.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2–4).

People may be impressed by what we have built, but they are influenced by how we respond when someone or something tries to tear it down.

How can we respond well right now as leaders?

  1. Accept Responsibility

When a crisis hits, it’s an opportunity to show strength. When things go wrong, stay strong.

When we accept responsibility, we are not weakened but we are actually strengthened. Whatever you do, refuse to make excuses. We never win when we play the blame game. Stand up and accept the challenge. This means showing up. This is not a time to shrink and disappear. Be visible and accessible in whatever way you can.

When the leader shows up and stands up, the staff and the people are cheered. People need to see us, in order to believe us.

“Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you are in control, they are in control.” —Tom Landry

As leaders, always do what is right and tell the truth. It is always right to do what is right. Do what is right – not what is easiest. I cannot say it enough; do what is right and not what is easiest.

  1. Have a Plan

Crisis management should not happen on the fly. Make sure you are thinking ahead, wondering what if, and planning for what could be. When it comes to a crisis, you can’t lead from behind.

Trials and tests often come unannounced, just like this one. Many times, we are blindsided by these crises, but that does not mean that we can’t be prepared. Have good judgment and seek wise counsel.

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.” —Proverbs 13:20

Above all, seek the wisdom and counsel of God by spending time alone with Him.

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” —Proverbs 19:20–21

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” —Psalm 46:10

God is faithful, and He will give you His perfect wisdom in this time of need (James 3:17; Hebrews 4:14–16).

  1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

This is what effective leaders do. This cannot be spin, political correctness, damage control, or making a speech. It must be genuine and authentic. We are there to calm, comfort, and clarify.

This includes listening. We must listen and seek to understand those we are entrusted to lead. Make sure that you are listening to your staff and your people. This is crucial, especially at this time.

Make sure that you get your message out. Right now, one of the most effective ways to do this is to shoot a video. Let your people see your face and hear your voice. Let them know how they can experience God’s comfort, peace, and presence.

Constantly communicate the living hope of Jesus Christ. Right now, my verse for this virus is Isaiah 26:3, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

  1. Demonstrate Faith

Crisis will either destroy your faith or build it. When the storm is circling around you, you can stay calm and confident within because God is a “very present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

When a leader has faith in God and lives that faith out with integrity, people will follow. In crisis, people will give you the benefit of the doubt.

The faith factor is key. Faith gives us perseverance, true grit, and determination to keep going when we want to quit. It will enable us to rise to this occasion. People will follow men and women of faith, but only if their faith is real.

  1. Genuinely Care about People

Care for people, not just the bottom line or your own position. In a crisis, put people first. They need to know they are secure. Love is a show of strength. This means saying it and showing it.

Leaders show their true character in crisis. If we come across as uncaring or insensitive, we will lose our leadership. Love people and help them to see the bigger picture as we all stay on mission. Great leaders find a way to inspire and motivate, especially in the tough times.

Above all else, leadership is not about what you do as much as who you are. It is your vision, yes, but it’s really your virtue that sustains leadership. We will not successfully lead in the face of a crisis without character.

You can lose everything, but don’t lose your soul. It is the epicenter of your life and leadership.

Dr. Jack Graham serves as Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest and most dynamic churches in the country. Connect with Dr. Graham on Twitter @jackngraham.