7 ways to lead during a crisis

Is the best leader a combination of John Lennon and Winston Churchill? INVNT's Scott Cullather gives his advice.

Scott Cullather is co-founder and CEO of INVNT.

Leading during a crisis: there’s no handbook on what’s right or wrong. The most important thing is that you continue to lead, because in the absence of leadership there is chaos, and people need direction, especially during these times. Go with your gut and focus on making an impact.

Below are some tactics we’re embracing to lead our agency through COVID-19, which I hope will be of benefit to you too.

1. Give the LennHill approach a try

This strategy involves practising compassion, honesty and transparency like John Lennon. You’re regularly communicating with your teams about the status of the business through a variety of different platforms, and introducing morale-boosting activities like virtual post-work drinks, trivia and DJ sessions.

We’re balancing this with an operational focused, Winston Churchill approach, one that involves continuously analysing the revenues, operating costs and staff headcount as the pandemic evolves.

You’re making the difficult decisions you don’t want to make, but have to make, to continue to fight so that you never have to surrender. The most effective leaders? They’ve found a balance between the two.

2. Embrace a challenger mindset

At a time when work may not be as plentiful and the landscape is more competitive, standing out is key. So, avoid the status quo. Challenge conventions, take (well thought out) risks, never settle for an ‘it’ll do,’ and encourage your employees to embody the same approach. Then, make sure it’s woven throughout all aspects of your business.

3. Pivot, and pivot fast

I’ve watched so many of you pivot your careers and businesses in remarkable ways over the last few months, and I am so proud and honoured to be a part of this incredibly meaningful and resilient industry. Now it’s important not to become complacent. It’s time to continue to look ahead and pivot in new ways as restrictions begin to ease.

4. Communicate more, not less

With your people, and your clients. And don’t do what everyone else is doing. Creativity is so essential now. When it comes to transforming a live physical experience into a live virtual one, ‘it’s not a re-package, but a re-do’ has become our mantra.

5. Be an emotional leader

Don’t be afraid to show your emotions. People need to understand where you’re coming from and visibly see that you care. It makes you more human and relatable. 

6. Be culture crazy – it matters now, more than ever

When things are out of our control – like during a global pandemic – the one thing people can rely on is the culture you have created at work. If you’re culture crazy, your people can grab onto that. It instils in them positivity and makes them feel safe. In our industry, our people are our most important asset. So, it’s vital that you continue to put your people first.

7. Remember your own brand

We’re all navigating these times together, so strive to be a thought leader and share your own experiences and best practice advice through the right channels. It’ll ensure your agency doesn’t disappear from view, too.

Our industry has been one of the most heavily impacted by COVID-19, but with effective leadership, coupled with the strength and resilience of our people and partners, I have no doubt we’ll come out the other end of this pandemic stronger and more united than ever.

This article was written by Scott Cullather at INVNT. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of C&IT Magazine.

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