It’s almost impossible to glance at a newspaper, news website or a social media feed without seeing something about the drought in Cape Town. Often noted as “the worst drought in 100 years”, there are dozens of opinion pieces, articles and groups focussing on everything from water-saving initiatives to the date the taps will run dry. As for who is to blame, no one can decide – is it poor management by different levels of local, provincial or national government, the fault of climate change, ageing infrastructure, or people who waste water? Or is it all of the above? With the amount of mud-flinging (or rather, sand-flinging) going on, one thing is standing out above it all – a lack of meaningful, effective leadership.
Water management is complex, and is not simply a matter of throwing enough money at desalination projects or pumping the water we need out of dams and rivers. In a water-scarce region like South Africa, and especially the Cape, it requires a delicate touch and plenty of foresight, as well as working within a series of national, provincial and local structures in order to supply industry, individuals and agriculture – all without destroying the natural ecosystem. To make this complicated and fragile system work in times of plenty as well as scarcity requires competent, experienced leadership that can be trusted.
Cities and provinces in a crisis are like businesses in similarly stressed circumstances – rumours run rampant, people spend their time anxiously talking to colleagues or making other plans rather than working, fractures emerge, big picture goals fall by the wayside, and know-one knows for certain what their future holds. It’s here that executives and managers need to come into their own as true and authentic leaders if there is any chance of overcoming these challenges successfully. In fact, with the right kind of leadership, organisations and cities can emerge from these times of crisis stronger than they were before.
How to be an Effective Leader Through a Time of Crisis
- Take ownership: When a crisis cannot be averted, it’s time for leadership to take responsibility – not to end up in a mud-slinging match where everyone refuses to take the blame. Taking responsibility is the first step in preventing a crisis from worsening, and gives leaders a chance to learn, take up the reigns and make an impact.
- Be confident: Even if you don’t have all the answers, it’s best not to ignore the problem or refuse to address it – you have to believe in your ability to discover and deliver a solution, and make others believe in it too.
- Be visible and connected: Your people need to know that you are there, working on the problem and demonstrating that you are taking every possible measure to overcome it. Don’t lock yourself away for days on end without any word of your progress – your team needs to see you take charge.
- Communicate with sincerity: Authenticity is key for effective leadership, especially during a crisis. Connect with your personal values and those of your team, and keep communication honest, sincere and clear at all times. Deal with the facts and don’t try to spin the story.
- Commit to your team: One of the biggest challenges of any crisis is to get your team back on track, motivated and refocussed on their work goals, so it’s important for leaders not to neglect this side of their duties even when dealing with other important tasks. This not only puts the organisation back to business as usual, it helps prevent further damage and downtime, and builds confidence in your team that their futures are secure and that the crisis can and will be solved.
The Authentic Leader-Manager Course: Purposeful, Sincere and Performance-based Leadership
Being a good leader is about bringing your own, unique talents to the fore – but being a great leader means leading through authenticity and sincerity. Whether you want to bring out the best performance in your team or be part of the solution when your business faces a challenge, developing your own, authentic leadership style is key to fully realising your potential. Book your seat at our upcoming Authentic Leader-Manager training course.
Click here to look at Maurice Kerrigan Africa’s public course training schedule.