Leadership in danger – Uncertainty and disorientation are constant companions in executive suites

Reliable planning? Confident and forward-looking action? In the current situation - wishful thinking. Accurate planning ahead seems to be impossible these days. I hear it from many customers: “We can only drive on sight.” Crisis mode has become the new norm. Every day, we receive messages like this: “Risk of burnout: Apparently, the future of leadership as a whole is at stake right now.” “Only 20% of managers rate their virtual leadership skills as good.” “86% of high potentials in companies are exhausted and burnt out.”

But does this correspond to reality? Are we in a crisis? And what does that mean - crisis? Is it the new circumstances every week? Or have the constantly changing conditions already become part of our everyday life? How can I plan ahead under these conditions?
Crisis can be defined as follows: A difficult position, situation, time [culmination and/or turning point of a dangerous development]; difficulty, critical situation; time of endangerment, being in danger.
So the crisis is a situation, a time which represents the culmination or turning point of a development. What does this mean in the context of leadership? What happens in a crisis?

If we look at the human brain, it is well known what happens there in a crisis. The mere thought of a crisis is enough to fundamentally change the system. The reason: the brain has difficulty distinguishing between reality, i.e., dangers actually existing the existing physical world, and purely mental dangers emerging from thoughts. As a result, the brain triggers the same process for all dangers, perceived or real. We think of a danger or crisis and the body is already in a state of emergency: fight or flight. How “real” a danger is, is not relevant at this stage. All functions that are not absolutely necessary for survival are shut down. The field of view narrows, focusing to a point.

This millennia-old mechanism is excellent and has saved us many times. So far so good, because once the problem is solved, the body automatically goes into a recovery phase. Everything relaxes.

But when the state of emergency becomes the normal state, the effects of this crisis mode on our thoughts and actions are devastating. The normal rhythm from tension to relaxation is disturbed. In the long run, clear thinking is no longer possible.

The significance of the crisis for leadership

What does this mean for me as a leader? Do I live up to my standards in leadership as before? Do I perceive the feedback from the system, or do I suppress it? Am I open to the concerns of others? Am I cutting myself off and doing only what is necessary to somehow make it through the crisis? Am I still capable of acting to the same extent as before? Do I play down situations? Or do I even exacerbate them to create the opportunity to stand out as a crisis manager? What role does my ego play? To what extent do I let the crisis determine my everyday life? Can I create and provide perspective? Do I allow it to just "drive by sight" and lose sight of the long-term course?

What do these questions mean for you as a manager? Nothing at all, you may say. To others, it may concern them. It may be relevant to them, but not to me. You've got it all figured out, don't you? Let's face it, the thought is not all that foreign - is it?

Certainly not all of the above affect us equally as leaders, but some do. And there are certainly more than we would like to admit. But and this is comforting to know: We are all affected.

We usually see it first in our colleague, he/she has slacked off. Looking at the other person is reassuring, because where the colleagues have slackened off, we are still "on top of things". Or are we distracting?

As a leader with vision, I should always ask myself the question: Where are my opportunities to improve? Which of my shortcomings can I reveal and thus create the possibility improve? And what does it mean for me to reveal deficits?

It's all about restoring or expanding the ability to act and take control: The unexpected is to be expected, the longer the crisis lasts, the more so.  Actively countering these uncertainties creates options. Thinking in terms of alternatives. Always having a plan B. Focusing and concentrating more on my own actions. Then calm will return. And with calm comes clarity. Solution-oriented thinking becomes possible again. The equilibrium is restored, and with-it efficiency returns. We gain confidence and this in turn promotes calm, balance and clear thinking. Upward spiral instead of vicious cycle.