In times of crisis and disaster respected leaders are identified not by the position or title they hold but by their actions and reactions. You won’t have all the answers, you won’t even know what the questions are going to be, but with action comes clarity.

Case study: South East Asian tsunami

In the aftermath of the South East Asian tsunami up to 300,000 people who would lose their lives across several countries. The highest number of casualties was in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

In Thailand 5395 bodies were recovered following the same disaster and an identification effort, the size of which had never been seen before was, undertaken by forensic practitioners from 36 different countries. There were over 400 forensic staff who all descended from across the globe to assist in the efforts of returning those loved ones to their families. Approximately half of those who lost their life were Thai nationals.

Defining leaders

One of the biggest challenges facing the teams that arrived was that what they were about to do was unprecedented in terms of size and coordination.

What defined the leaders was the actions and reactions that they took. While most business challenges will not be on the back of a crisis or disaster, they might be the result of unprecedented growth. Importantly, it’s what we do and the decisions that are made which really defines true leaders.

4 key actions for respected leaders

1. Speed 

Take action, and lead. When there’s a gap in the market place, so often it’s the first to move that will hold that position of leadership. If you wait until you have all of the answers to all the possible questions, someone will beat you to it.

2. Sensitivity

Accept that change is met with resistance and address those areas prior to implementing change.

3. Structure

You can’t have an organisation that’s innovative and mistake free—CEOs get to choose one, not both. Overlaying teams with policy and procedure takes away the ability to make decisions and lead with innovation and creative thought.

4. Simplicity

Leaders need to make decisions, sometimes without deliberation. If our leaders act with integrity and consult where they can and then make a decision that goes wrong, they will be forgiven. If leaders fail to make decisions for fear of getting it wrong they won’t be forgiven.

CEOs and managers don’t have to have a crisis or disaster to apply simple leadership qualities that separate them and their organisation from others who are competing for share of market.

It’s what you do and how you act that is more important than the title on your business card when the pressure is on.