Tragedy comes in all forms. Some are the result of human decisions, such as making a bad investment that financially ruins a company, or a decision to take lives as we saw unfold in Newtown, Connecticut. Some tragedies are out of our control, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis. A common thread to all of these horrific events is a question; Why? Why did this happen? Why wasn’t it prevented? Why didn’t someone see this coming? Whatever the tragedy, leaders must rise to meet the challenge. Not the challenge of answering the questions, but the challenge of leading people through difficult times.
People in difficult times look to leaders for hope and a sense of security. They are looking for assurance that everything will be alright again. They are desperately needing direction and movement to focus their attention. Unfortunately, the trend in leadership over the last decade has been to blame someone else, deflect responsibility, or otherwise say, “see, I told you so!”
Some tragedies have no answers. All tragedies have people who need led. As leaders, we have a responsibility to lift up those who are entrusted to our leadership. In these times, we become a mixture of parent, coach, pastor, and friend to the people we lead. We put on the face of confidence, even if we don’t feel it ourselves. We speak words of encouragement and hope, even when we feel discouraged and hopeless. We set into motion plans and activities, even when we aren’t 100% sure they will work. It’s all part of leadership.
Soon after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, people were on the social media sites blaming the lack of gun control laws for the tragedy. Is gun control a legitimate topic for discussion? Yes, but not that day. Great leaders know that. Being sensitive to the needs of people in great distress is a critical skill during tragedies. Yet, at the same time, great leaders know how and when to instill hope by looking forward and directing others to do the same. They know how and when to cast a compelling vision that helps victims heal. They know when to be silent and when to speak.
As the days and weeks unfold, will great leaders speak? Will you? What will you say to those around you with whom you have influence? Will you complain and blame like everyone else or will you encourage true discussion that leads to solutions? There will be no shortage of tragedies. Will there be a shortage of great leadership?
I would encourage you, as I do myself, to rise up in your leadership. No matter the circumstance, whether the current tragedy or a future one, let us commit to leading with excellence. Let us speak words that lift others up, strengthen the weak, and bring hope to those in despair. Rise up my friends. Be the leader you have been called to be. Our companies need it. Our families need it. Our country needs it.
This blog was originally posted at http://www.indemandleadership.com/blog/posts/leadership-when-tragedy-strikes-leaders-must-rise/
on December 19, 2012.