The week of September 11 is always a bittersweet time for me. As a former paramedic of seventeen years, I feel a sense of pride and respect for the first responders who met that challenge without hesitation. I will always have the utmost admiration for those who continue to take charge and respond to us in our most serious and dire situations.
As a leader, you never know what challenges you will face. Today may be the day of your strongest hour or your deepest regrets. Just as September 11, 2001, became a moment where leaders like Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush had to face the “hard call,” they could never have foreseen this challenge that would change the face of history. As a paramedic, I, too, faced the reality that we never knew what our next call would bring, and that is the true challenge of leadership.
Now, eighteen years after the tragedy of 9/11, it is easy to look back and critique the decisions that were made. It is always easy to know what to do when the outcome is already decided. The gift of time for review can illuminate all of the decisions that could have been handled differently. In those moments where decisions must be made with only the information at hand, you must be confident in your knowledge and intuition. You must be able to trust those whom you have placed in leadership positions around you to stand ready.
Although you may never be in a life-and-death situation in your business, you may be faced with difficult times during a recession or global market change. Will you stand ready? Will you be ready to make decisions and find the right information to see your company through the challenge?
As a leadership developer and strategist, I love teaching my clients to be challenge-ready leaders. Here are three areas where you can start preparing your readiness plan today.
Having a challenge-ready mindset that sees the challenge as an opportunity to sharpen your leadership skills and showcase all that you have already prepared is the place to start. This is the mindset that stands in the face of the challenge and says, “I got this, bring it on”—as I had to be as a paramedic when we rolled on every 911 call.
When you are mentally prepared to meet the challenge head on, you will have the confidence that you need to make decisions and put your plans into action without hesitation.
Whether you are a solopreneur or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, having a team that you can trust is imperative to your success in the overcoming of challenges. If you have a team, make sure that you are delegating to them daily and allowing them to do the work without micromanaging. You need to be able to trust that the people you place in leadership positions can do the job when you give it to them.
During a crisis you must be able to delegate and know that the job will be done to your standards. Working with your team daily to develop the leaders and staff that you have put into strategic positions will prepare them to be assets in the face of a challenge.
If you are a solopreneur, make sure that you do the work of networking with other freelancers in different specialties so that you have a group of individuals that you can reach out to at a moment’s notice. You want to cultivate relationships with others that you know will be able to perform the work you need to your specific satisfaction. Don’t wait until you are in the thick of a crisis to try out someone new if you can avoid it.
Anytime there is a serious situation and you need work to be efficient, even during a chaotic event, command presence is key. The ability of the leader to give direction in a calm, confident low tone of voice allows others to recognize that the temperature in the room has gone up. Your calm and confident demeanor will assure them that you are still clearly in control. This type of calming confidence in the face of crisis can help to maintain order and direction.
The leader must maintain the sense of calm while delegating tasks in a decisive way to create a buy-in from employees to make sure that they follow directions in a timely and efficient way.
Just remember that how you face the small day-to-day challenges in your business and in life is where you prepare for the larger, unexpected challenges that may come your way. Take the time to be deliberate with all the challenges and obstacles you face, large and small.