The Rituals of Outstanding Leaders in Crisis
Five days a week he arrived home at 5:30 p.m. We could count on it. It was more than “like clockwork.” It was a sacramental occurrence in the same way that all of us take for granted that day and night will appear each morning and evening. Dad was always home at the appointed time.
The world ran on schedule until the day his heart stopped. Then, things changed and they were never quite the same.
When a war occurs or life changes in a major way, how does a person lead in a manner that keeps people safe while they strive to achieve their goals? What attitudes and beliefs propel people forward with optimism and their best efforts. What ritualistic words and actions will bring a leader success.
Caring About Your People
Effective leadership, parenting or running a country starts with love.
When General Dwight D. Eisenhower led the attack on Germany and the invasion of Normandy, he knew this,
“Morale is born of loyalty, patriotism, discipline, and efficiency, all of which breeds confidence in self and in comrades… Morale is at one and the same time the strongest and the most delicate of growths. It withstands shocks, even disasters of the battlefield, but can be destroyed utterly by favoritism, neglect or injustice.”
156,000 soldiers with 4000 ships and 11,000 airplanes invaded German occupied territory in Western France. His letter read to frightened young men contained these words,
“You are about to embark upon a Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. … you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. … Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.
General Eisenhower's letter also explains to the men how the Nazis are reeling from great defeats and Allied victories and that we have “overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!”
His attitude of compassion was present before the battle began the next day. He prepared for defeat and wrote a note taking full blame for the failed decision to attack. Wow! He would shoulder the blame for his young soldiers if they were defeated.
What to Learn and Ritualize Into Your Spirit
- Start with love and then resolve to lead with all your heart, mind and soul for new recruits, customers and the reps you lead. That’s first and it’s your main responsibility. Be concerned about the welfare of these people as you do business Pay attention to the incomes of the reps and the service to the customers.
- Go out and be with your people in the line of fire. Let them see you. Ask how they’re doing. Listen. Be open to hearing about issues at work and at home. Make it a ritual to show up on a schedule. When you do this, thank people and show your appreciation.
- Next, tell them about why the business is essential for those they serve. Be clear about what happens if people do not get their needs filled or their problems solved. Help them understand the positive impact your products and services have on others. That’s the why - the “Great Crusade!” And, the services provided will help feed their families and pay for their homes.
- Do not sugar coat what has to be done. Be specific and clear about the barriers they will face from within and without.
- Let them know what resources have been placed at their disposal, and on a frequent and ritualistic basis, ask them what they need.
- Finally, be sure and voice your confidence in them - in their strengths, courage and ability to get the job done. Tell them what you expect will happen as they stay the course.
We will always have tragedies and difficult moments in our lives. As leaders, we make sure that optimism reigns and love triumphs in the fight to win.
If you are faith-based, be authentic about what you believe the God you serve will do for all of you. Here’s how General Eisenhower ended his letter to the troops before they stormed the beaches. “Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
Love, ritualistic presence, appreciation, why, truth, resources and confidence within your family, your company, your friends and your country. These you can build within you as you lead others in battling through a crisis.
Just remember faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.