In a time of crisis, we look to organizational leaders with the expectation that they will guide the rest of us and navigate the way through the extremely difficult times. We expect our leaders to be able to lead.
There is a saying that good leaders, like the best cream, always rise to the top. In a time of crisis, however, what happens to the weak leaders, who may not be prepared and ready for the rise? If they proceed with a lack of development, will they, like cream gone sour, curdle and fall to the bottom? Will they take the rest of us with them?
Unfortunately, crisis does not wait for the completion of a management training program for the leaders who continue to need development. There is no time in the midst of a crisis to develop a crisis management lesson plan. There is no time for long-term management development planning. There is no time to complete a needs assessment so that a proper skills-based approach can be implemented.
Out of all the management skills development models that we study in theory, the most applicable approaches during the reality of a crisis appear to be on-the-job training and error management training. The textbook speaks to the positive aspects of error management training as a leadership development tool, because it requires “constant adaptions to an ever-changing environment” as a “norm.” This results in the immediate application of problem-solving skills with the hope that the error rates are few, and error corrections can be applied immediately.
During a crisis, many of the negative characteristics of on-the-job training models are heightened for leaders who are still in the stages of development. These include the lack of structured training approaches and the lack of effective resources in the form of coaches or mentors who have time to provide active feedback and reinforcement. On the other hand, as noted in this article from Human Resources Director-Canada, the current pandemic crisis has provided some with “the best leadership development program ever.” The author speaks to this moment of crisis as an opportunity to assess both the strengths and weaknesses of our leaders. Most importantly, it allows leaders to focus on the continuing need to develop their best skills, which come from the heart, to promote a culture of trust and care.
Clearly, the pull to the top should prevail in developing the best leaders, now more than ever.
- What do you expect from leaders in your current organization during this time of crisis? How are leaders meeting (or not meeting) your expectations?
- What type of leadership development tools would you need for yourself if you had to lead a team through a crisis?
- Besides on-the-job training and error management training, what other training tools should be put in place to bring out the best in organizational leaders in a time of crisis?