Here’s a rubric for crisis leadership that can help

The text highlights the C-O-P-E approach to leadership during a crisis: Creativity, Overcommunication, Perspective, and Empathy. These qualities, such as promoting innovation, transparent communication, long-term thinking, and understanding, are essential for guiding decisions and building resilience in individuals and organisations.

Crisis leadership
David A. Yovanno
David A. Yovanno
Read time: 4 min

At some point in your career, you’ve probably come across some version of the 7 Cs of leadership. These basic values have been adapted and reinvented in hundreds of ways over the years, including during the current crisis.

The benefit of these kinds of formulas is that they provide a values-driven model for leadership — a way to establish the non-negotiable goals of your role and use those tenets to inform every decision you make and action you take. The 7 Cs presume a goal of social good, which makes them a great foundation for leadership in diverse situations.

As CEO of a large and complex organization, I’ve had to examine the current landscape and consider what framework I and my teams can use to provide the best possible leadership right now. Because of the unique variables of the current climate, including social distancing, global scale, and no predictable timeline, leadership in this particular crisis calls for a unique set of guideposts, which I’m calling C-O-P-E. 

A C-O-P-E approach to leadership during a crisis

Creativity: Innovation is everywhere, it’s exciting, and it is vital right now for both sanity and supply chains.  From how people are maintaining social connections, to how employees are finding a way to consistently be productive working from home, to how even small companies like this one are repurposing resources to meet immediate community needs, creativity may be our most powerful asset right now. Encourage innovation, improvisation, and creative thinking among your people; listen to all ideas; share what works and be open to approaches you might not otherwise consider. Impact clients reacted to the crisis in so many creative ways, from offering free podcasts and streaming services for the newly homebound to yoga classes. (Read more about these great companies and the creativity they have shown.) 

Overcommunication: When your teams are facing uncertainty in every aspect of their lives, continual, consistent, and transparent communication is absolutely essential. A recent Digiday webinar on ”Leading in a Crisis” focused on the importance of creating a “shared consciousness” in your organization.

Consider a simple communications checklist like this one: 

1) Communicate what you know 

2) Communicate what you don’t know

3) Communicate what you commit to

4) Repeat often

At Impact, we have instituted regular emails, Slack channels, global Zoom huddles, regional Zoom town halls, and local office Zoom happy hours dedicated to communicating with each other extensively especially during this challenging time. These check-ins are important, especially as uncertainty causes new questions to spring up every day that might be troubling to our employees. We are addressing them with as much clarity and speed as possible. 

Perspective: Operationally, financially, and logistically, seeing the bigger picture and considering long-term impacts of short-term actions is the job of a good leader right now. We have been offering this advice to our clients and partner community, reminding them that neglected or abandoned partnerships and partnership investments may be hard to recover when the pandemic dust settles. As many economists have pointed out, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the economy before the pandemic hit, so the chances of certain sectors of the economy returning to growth mode is good. Creativity, flexibility, and vision in how you handle partnerships now will give you more agility and resilience later.

Empathy: Show it not only in your interactions, but to yourself and your limitations.  Leaders, breadwinners, caregivers, parents, front line workers, and anyone else with responsibility for the welfare of others in a crisis carry a heavy load. At Impact, we mobilized and provided our teams training for active listening techniques to help relationships — both internal and external — during this time and supplied everyone with a variety of resources. After all, each individual has their own set of challenges and their own unique burdens, visible and otherwise. Compassion and understanding will go a long way. So will cutting yourself a little slack. 

In any kind of organization, the demands of this unprecedented and unpredictable situation will call for innovative leadership, courage, and grit. Now’s the time to draw on your leadership values, and let them guide you. Then have faith in your people and engage with your partners, networks, and communities to keep relationships and possibilities energized for the future. 

Stay well, 

David A. Yovanno

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