Leading through turbulent times

How safety pros can stay calm and cool under pressure

Leading through turbulent times
Nikhil Rattan

The pandemic was a challenging period for most of us and it posed profound challenges in the way we lived and worked. Many safety & human resources leaders were at the forefront of managing and leading their organization’s response.

In this crisis many of us had to process large amounts of complex information, contradictory views, and strong emotions. For many it was leading outside their comfort zone, and it has really brought into focus what it means to lead through difficult situations. 

Even though we are no longer in a pandemic, we are consistently dealing with difficult situations and crisis moments within the safety and people management domain.  It is hard to remain calm in a crisis since humans are biologically wired to have a stress response when confronted with unpredictable events and volatile situations.

To stay calm and optimistic under such pressure, it is important for leaders to practice high degree of self awareness. This involves being acutely aware of the changing reality in the outside world and being aware of how we are responding both emotionally and physically. Such an intentional practice allows leaders to shift from viewing challenges as roadblocks and seeing them as problems to be solve.

In these moments, leaders must make a deliberate choice to have a calm state of mind along with prioritizing self-care and self-compassion. This reduces the possibility of quick instinctive reactions and allows for thoughtful responses which leads to a better outcome. Practicing self-care allows leaders, who face constant pressure, prevent reduced effectiveness and exhaustion while driving long term resilience. 

In moments of crisis and while dealing with complex issues, employees want leaders to fix things fast. But in such situations leaders can lose credibility by displaying excessive confidence, going into a command-and-control leadership style, and sometimes giving simplistic answers to the problem at hand. It is important that leaders project confidence but also show humility by recognizing the severity of the situation and work on solving the situation with a team approach mentality. This allows for appropriate, meaningful, and timely actions to solve the crisis.  

As we navigate the stormy seas of turbulent times, it’s the leaders who not only steer the ship but also ensure that every crew member arrives safely at their destination. This proves that leadership’s ultimate measure is the protection, safety & well-being of those entrusted in their care.