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Leadershift: Switching Gears While Staying On Course During A Crisis

When leaders sit around the table building their organization’s strategic plan, forecasting a worldwide pandemic is not usually part of the discussion. Why? Well, because most of us think a pandemic would never happen in our lifetime. But it did. And it completely turned our lives upside down. From the way we conduct business to the way we manage staff to the way we lead our organizations, everything has changed.

However, from a human resources perspective, this new life may not be all that bad. In fact, this situation may help improve some of our leadership skills, promote creativity and help develop new leaders. Difficult times also cause us to shift our mindset. It is no longer about how we did things years ago, or even yesterday. Every day, as new developments emerge from the pandemic, we are all forced to shift gears very quickly to adapt to a whole new world. But the stakes are high! Leaders may ask themselves, “How can I navigate through all of this without losing sight of the company’s vision, mission and core values?” As tough as this may be for all of us, it’s not impossible. In fact, some of the greatest success stories in history were born during crises.

For the sake of focusing on individuals in leadership roles, staff at every level in an organization are counting on leaders to stand up and take charge to navigate them through these tough waters without compromising the integrity of the organization. They are looking for visionaries: leaders who can see a beautiful cup in a lump of unmolded clay. But this takes a real commitment — a commitment to the organization’s goals, a commitment to its people and a commitment to engaging in a new thought process. It’s called leadershift.

Leadershift is being able to quickly change directions because of unplanned circumstances without stopping the organization’s progress or movement or steering away from its mission. Things happen. But when they do happen, the company’s leader’s quick mental agility should kick in to keep the organization on track. Here are a few things to consider during this process.

  • Re-think the company’s strategy. Leaders may have to work backward. Revisit the organization’s strategic goals and start with the longer-term goals, which would mean looking at the five- or 10-year plan and making it your right-now plan. Many of those plans may have seemed far-fetched when you first thought them up, but they may be relevant now in today’s new business climate. It might involve, for example, transitioning to include a remote workforce.

  • Re-evaluate your talent. A new plan may mean creating new roles. In a world where everything is now completely digitized, how does your company fit into this new space? Who in this organization has the talent to help transition this organization to a virtual one? Unfortunately, this is probably one of the toughest decisions you will have to make. Because what will happen is that people’s roles will shift as your leadership style is shifting. This also means as a leader, you may have to get rid of some people who no longer fit your new strategy. At the same time, you may be able to offer individuals a new opportunity to learn new skills — if they are willing to make the shift with you.

  • Evaluate your leaders. Do you have the right leaders in the right positions on your team to help you move the organization in the direction you are trying to go? If not, you have to make some decisions about your current leaders. This does not always mean layoffs, but could just involve making adjustments and rearranging people to best fit the organization’s new plans.

  • Share your vision with the team. One of the biggest breakdowns in any organization comes from a lack of communication. This usually happens when there is no solid strategic communication plan to roll out crisis communications to the organization’s internal and external audiences. So, before any information is shared from the executive leadership wing of the organization, a communication plan has to be developed to ensure staff are properly notified of the company’s new plans. One of the worst things that could ever happen is for this information to come from the press or someone from the outside. Leaders should always allow their team to share in the vision so they can be part of it. They may not only support the new business environment, but also have great suggestions on how to move your plans forward.

While it is next to impossible to plan through every possible step of a crisis, it is not impossible to develop a willingness to adapt and shift as appropriate. And, leaders who are able to manage the day-to-day needs of their staff with a clear vision while simultaneously being flexible in a business crisis may find greater success overall in the future.


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