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A. Miniotaitė on leadership in the time of crisis: people need a behaviour scenario and a plan

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In difficult situations, people are looking for a guide, a leader, someone to help them find answers and a plan of action. The society turns to the leader for the answers and considers him to be the role model.

Alisa Miniotaitė, an expert of management and leadership, reveals why new names appear in the public arena during a crisis, why a good leader of an organisation will not necessarily be strong during a crisis, what personal qualities a leader must strengthen and control in such a case.

During a crisis, clarity is expected from a leader

A. Miniotaitė says that people usually do not think about crises and the action plan when they occur. They happen and then they just have to act. It is during similar crises that the real leaders emerge – some leaders bravely stand at the forefront of the crisis, mobilise the community, act, while others talk more than they do or withdraw altogether.

Socio-economic unrest is a great time for new leaders to emerge. Charismatic, vivid, confident leaders usually appear during this period.

“In a difficult time, society or community is looking for that strong shoulder that could lift that difficulty like never before. Some followers are happy to lean morally on such a shoulder. Therefore, a leader needs to mobilise his team, his people, to explain how he is going to behave, to help them survive this difficult period. He has to show the way, draw deadlines, present possible scenarios. In other words, to provide clarity and share an action plan. People expect that,” says A. Miniotaitė, Head of Leadership Module at the ISM University of Management and Economics.

Leadership in the time of crisis requires specific skills

If a formal leader is unable to lead his team during a crisis, another leader is ready to take responsibility. A. Miniotaitė emphasises that such a situation occurs due to the specific skills required at a critical time, when it is not enough to lead the organisation calmly, to enjoy natural growth and success. In the time of crisis, it is often necessary to make a number of difficult and “unpopular” decisions, to deal not only with the personal burden, but also with the burden of all the people around. As a result, new leaders often emerge at a difficult time for an organisation or society.

In the time of crisis, some people get into a severe panic, so in this case, not only taking responsibility, but also proper communication, the compassion for the employees or society is very important.

“In critical situations, it is common for a leader to think of people in terms such as “they are overestimating the situation”, “they are overreacting”, “they got wishy-washy”, it is tempting to react in a rejecting and contemptuous way. This is completely inappropriate. People react differently to challenges, some are really very anxious, so it’s important to accept this anxiety – this person, these people react this way, they’re very anxious, scared, and it’s my job to manage anxiety: calmly accept, empathise and explain what action will be taken – to explain in detail and consistently.“

As regards Lithuania and the coronavirus, I see that at the moment in Lithuania we mostly lack the identified possible scenarios and action plan. We see action now, but there is no exact explanation for the plan available if the virus continues for longer. People are not familiar with possible scenarios of the government’s behaviour. We do not know what we should be prepared for, what help people can expect from the state in the future,” says the head of the Leadership Programme at ISM University.

Panic and negligence are the worst behaviours of a leader

In difficult times for the state or organisation, the worst possible way for a leader to behave is to incite panic, to fail to control his emotions, or, on the contrary, to demonstrate negligence,” the expert of leadership notes. She also adds that when society already feels overwhelmed, a significant number of people feel upset, the most important thing is the maximum peace of mind and patient concentration of the leader.

“Of course they might feel anxiety and uncertainty deep inside, but this is the time to find a way out and navigate the ship through the storm. And the period of peace will come. It always does,” says A. Miniotaitė, the expert of leadership and management.

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