Your first reaction when a crisis strikes sets the path for how you deal with it moving forward. If your emotional reaction is one of anger, fear or despair, then you have to deal with that reaction carefully before you can start doing anything else.

It is quite easy to let a number of emotions flow through when a crisis strikes. Your mind is filled with questions such as:

  • Why is this happening?
  • Why did this have to happen to me/them?
  • What will this mean for my/their future?
  • What will this mean for my family?
  • Why did they do this?
  • Will we/they ever recover from this?

It is quite natural to ask yourself these questions. They are all closely linked to the six human needs. Very often, a crisis strikes so close and the severity of it is so big that we start to question our own values and believes. Those that are religious may ask themselves “why would God let such a terrible thing happen?”

The key to your success as a crisis leader is that, once that initial reaction has passed, you quickly do a self-analysis and look at how you reacted and why. Once you have done that, you can start preparing for taking the next steps, which require you to step up as crisis leader.

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. – Charles de Gaulle

Many crises do not only affect those around you, they affect you yourself, and you are one of the “victims” of the crisis. This can influence how you deal with the crisis in more ways than you would expect.

When you yourself are affected, you need to overcome your own grief or loss so that you can step up and lead the overall community or organization you are tasked with leading out of the crisis.

Just as we have numerous examples of people who have put their own loss to the side and risen to this challenge, we have even more examples of people who have simply given up and not been able to rise to the challenge. It is difficult to say what separates those two groups of people, but it is my opinion that it is in big part based on their own preparedness, resiliency and the experiences they have gone through prior to the crisis striking.

At the same time, it is also essential for those who rise to the challenge and start leading the crisis effort to realize that the time will come when they will have to deal with their loss and grief. Although many find helping others a way to mask those emotions, they have not gone away and still need to be addressed at some point in the future. It is important that you have in place a mechanism for discussing those emotions and feelings when that point comes. When the opportunity arises, you also have to be willing to step aside and deal with your own issues, and let others assume leadership.

To learn more about crisis leadership check out my new book The Crisis Leader.

Published April 10th 2014 at LinkedIn