24th November 2022
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27th October 2021 | sysadmin | Reading time: 3 minutes
A crisis is a powerful force of change often packaged in the form of intense difficulty, uncertainty, trouble, or danger. As COVID-19 showed us, crises can come from anywhere, at any time, and they do not discriminate against who they impact. While we cannot anticipate and plan for every possible problem that could come our way, we can bolster our leadership skills, and be ready to support our leaders, so we are better equipped to handle unexpected issues in general.
Colin Wilford, a globally renowned Clinical Psychologist, Leadership & Executive Coach, and the CEO of Wilford Scholes shared some of his key observations from coaching executives through hardship for the last 30 years, and from leading his own company through the recent pandemic. He states that regardless of the quality or magnitude of the problem, be it organisational, financial, medical, or emotional, there is always the potential for crises to take a profound psychological toll on leaders for three reasons: a sense of personal responsibility, guilt, and reluctance to delegate.
Much like a parent, a leader feels directly responsible for the health and safety of all those under their supervision. This deep sense of duty to protect and take care of others puts leaders under immense pressure to solve the problem quickly and “correctly,” to minimize harm in all forms. Experiencing such elevated levels of stress takes a toll on both physical and mental health, especially if a leader is particularly empathetic and people-centered.
If anyone suffers as a result of the crises, leaders often feel it is their fault, even when it could not have been prevented, or other factors are really to blame. During the pandemic, we saw many leaders forced to make painful decisions, such as reducing salaries and discontinuing contracts. Accepting guilt for these decisions is natural, but unhelpful. Leaders complain of being unable to sleep, losing their temper more easily, and worrying more than usual during a crisis. It is important to find ways to balance this sense of duty to and care for others with the reality of the problem at hand in order to avoid undue stress.
Being solely responsible for a problem is a huge burden, and it is often an illusion that leaders create. This is usually unintentional and happens despite being trained and mentored in the art of delegating. Most leaders trust their people are competent and capable of fixing a problem, or at least capable of fixing some aspect of a problem, yet they instinctively take on the entire problem themselves. Neglecting to share the load and allow others to provide solutions will add to the psychological toll, inhibiting resilience, creativity, and productivity. Remembering to trust others and delegate tasks is a key to reducing the negative effects of crises.