Leading Through a Crisis

Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control.

–Tom Landry

The wintry afternoon walk in the field out behind our house with my older sister started out like any other. I was about 10 years old. The field was a great place to play. There were plenty of trails to walk and ride our bikes. We built forts, shot our Daisy BB guns, and caught fireflies in Mason jars. This day, however, would be different.

As my sister and I exited the field before heading inside, I did something I’d done many times before with no thought. I pulled a tall weed out of the ground. But this time the weed didn’t budge. When the force of my pull met the resistance of the weed, it slit my finger open and laid the skin back.

As we approached the backyard my blue coat was already soaked in blood. I went to the water faucet and began rinsing my finger. “Don’t tell mom!” I shouted to my sister as I saw her run inside with no intention of following my command.

Once I went inside, my mother was already in a panic. She walked me up to the kitchen sink and told me to stand still. “I’ll be right back!” she exclaimed. Moments later she returned with a bottle of rubbing alcohol. “Hold your finger still”, she said. I was under the impression that she would perhaps pour just a little on the cut. I was wrong.

With the best intentions that a loving mother could conjure up at that moment, she emptied the entire contents of that bottle of rubbing alcohol onto my finger as I screamed. Which was just prior to my fainting on the kitchen floor.

My mother – God rest of her sweet, loving soul up in heaven, meant well. And in my moment of crisis, she did the best she knew how.

As a leader, there are two things you can be certain of – 1) You will face moments of crisis, and 2) Your people will be looking to you for confidence. So what do you do in a crisis?

Here are a few practical ideas.

Stay calm

Remember, in times of crisis, your people will take their cues from you. From you, they need to see steadiness, resolve, and confidence. They don’t need to see you running for the doors. Or reaching for the alcohol.

Assess the situation

In times of crisis, you want to gather as much information as you can as quickly as you can. Gather your key people, ascertain what you know, separate fact from fiction, and start developing your action steps.

Communicate clearly

A good plan poorly communicated will only make matters worse. Make sure everyone knows the plan and everyone knows their role. Don’t assume anything.

Empower your people

Your people will gain confidence when you place your confidence in them. You can inspire your team by empowering your team.  A time of crisis is not the time for a one


Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences. Doug is a John Maxwell Team member.

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  1. Very timely post, Doug! With essential guidance since all the media outlets seem hell bent on creating the “flood it with alcohol” reaction!!

    Every step is good, and I really like ” start developing your action steps.” Based on a calm assessment of what is happening (as comprehensive as can be gained – without emotional drama) clear action steps help people focus on the present and take productive action rather than running around like chicken little.

    Definitely, a time of crisis is not the time for a personal one!