THE CRISIS IS ON IT'S WAY
On July 12, 1864 as the Confederate army approached Washington, D.C., a high-ranking Union officer climbed the fort’s parapet to personally survey the situation and came under fire from rebel snipers. This officer was the commander-in-chief, President Abraham Lincoln, who had left the safety of the White House, opting to join his troops at the front, observe, encourage and chart the course. It is the only time in American history in which a sitting president came under direct fire from an enemy combatant. Lincoln had a track record of staying engaged and leading from the front. In prior years he visited several generals on battlefields: McClellan at Antietam, Hooker at Charlottesville and Burnside at Fredericksburg. The Confederate’s advance toward Washington ended that day at Fort Stevens.
Gen. George S. Patton said, “It is nearly impossible to remain both aloof and effective.” Patton was right, and he walked his talk. In nine months and eight days his Third Army went farther and faster than any other Army in history. Army leaders can learn from his example of staying visible, accessible and engaged during crisis. Unfortunately, crisis often drives leaders behind closed doors instead of out to the trenches.
In the days after Sept. 11, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani exhaustively pounded the streets modeling visibility and accessibility while he consoled, encouraged, communicated, planned and executed strategy for rescue and cleanup. He attended more than 100 funerals, held daily briefings and consulted incessantly with others. He did not hide in his office, reading reports, pondering budgets and digesting second-hand information.
After coming down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments inscribed on stone tablets, Moses encountered his people in rebellion against God after they had built and began to worship a golden calf. Moses acted quickly to bring order out of the chaos of disobedience, saying, "Whosoever is on the LORD'S side, let him come unto me." Exodus 32:26
In crisis, a team of leaders with a balance of complementary skills and talents can move more quickly and effectively. This is where having developed capable, lateral leaders at all levels in your organization pays big dividends and often means the difference between survival and extinction. In fact, a hierarchy is the worst possible model in crisis and the organizations burdened by one will fail. The key is to be proactive and build your dream team before disaster hits. Why? Because tough times won’t create leaders. They show you what kind of leaders you already have.
Leader Prayer: Lord, the crisis is on it's way - and no matter how I try, nothing can fully prepare me for it. But I know I will find myself strengthened by you no matter the circumstances. Give me the courage to follow your will, to lead with compassion, and to bring glory to your name. Amen.