Charles de Gaule

It’s not will you need to lead through a crisis, it’s when. Here’s how.


If there is one guarantee in your leadership career it’s that your plans won’t always work. You will face a crisis or two that can derail your dreams if not handled correctly. Here is how other successful leaders have lead through crisis, come out on the other side intact, and gone on to achieve their dreams.

Aptitude. You have to know what to do in a crisis before there is a crisis.

During a crisis there is little time to think through options and there is no time to learn new skills. Experienced successful leaders already know what to do and how to do it when a crisis hits. How did they come upon this ability? They learned from others who were there before them and practiced before their own crisis happened.

Leadership expert John Maxwell tells a story about being on a private jet that hit a wind sheer during its landing. The plane turned sideways and bounced on the runway. As soon as wheels touched the ground, the pilot pulled the plane back up into the air, circled once and landed with no issues. John was impressed with the pilot’s actions and asked him when he decided to pull the plane up and out of the wind sheer? The pilot answered, “Twenty years ago when I learned how to react to any crisis that can happen during a landing.”

Attitude. You have to be willing to change course during a crisis to get back on course.

A crisis doesn’t mean the end to your dream, just a detour. Successful leaders never give in and never give up. They find a way to succeed.

I was in St. Thomas recently with a group of leaders and we had the opportunity to talk with three time Americas Cup winning skipper, Dennis Conner. We asked him what advice he could give us from his sailing experience on leading during a crisis. “It’s simple,” he said, “When winners face a crisis they just switch from being in front to finding a way to get back in front.

Altitude. You have to rise high above a crisis and be a beacon for others to follow.

The two most important words during a crisis are “Follow Me.” Now more than ever its time for the leader to be visible, vocal, and visionary. You own this one. It’s up to you to be right up front leading the charge.

Legendary French general and statesman Charles de Gaulle said, “Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.”

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