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Purposeful Leadership in Times of Crisis

Posted on Categories Leadership, PurposeTags

In a time of crisis effective leaders are bolstered by purpose. Learn how purpose guides them in decision making, strategy and communications.

We’ve seen how purpose-driven leaders thrive in times of great change. They garner positive sentiments in the media. They tend empowered cultures. And they do it by aligning their thoughts, words and actions to a “Big Why,” or as we say “A purpose.”

We think purposeful leaders (both in the sense of having a stated purpose and of making intentional decisions) will be the ones to adapt and grow through COVID-19. They will see abounding opportunities and help us keep faith in humanity. How? We’ll give you a few clues.

Keeping strategy aligned to purpose

It’s easy to lose sight of purpose in a crisis. There are immediate pressures, like the bottom line, that constrain decisions. This could derail anyone from their vision of what they want for the world. But a purposeful leader stays true to their North Star and makes choices that align to it. They think, “If I make x decision, will it contribute or take away from achieving our purpose?” When they choose to align themselves to their purpose, they find opportunities for growth and innovation. In times of crisis, they make more creative decisions that build a bright future.

This includes thinking about what they give, rather than get. Even in times where they could lose everything, these leaders turn their attention to what they want for others — their employees, partners and customers — in order to get closer to their intended purpose. What’s spectacular is often when they give, these leaders get so much more in return.

There are many choices someone could make in a crisis situation — most notable are the ones that remove or discontinue certain activities or functions. These are not easy decisions. But, when a leader makes a decision that aligns with their purpose, they demonstrate their commitment to delivering on it, making it real for all of their stakeholders. When people understand the “why” behind decisions and when they are in support of the organization’s purpose, people can more readily accept and support the chosen path.

Communicating through purpose

Intentional communication is paramount during a crisis, and purposeful leaders are choiceful in the words and sentiments they share. Their messages are reminders about why they do what they do and that they are as committed as ever to this great cause. Purposeful leaders see a crisis as a time to repeat this message to others and not waver from it. When people are distracted, a steadfast, singular and meaningful focus can connect them more deeply to their work and remind them of the value of it.

Communication isn’t just top-down, though. In order to achieve their purpose, these leaders encourage and seek out a two-way dialogue. They want to know what others have to say, and they listen. They do this to see where they are not living up to their North Star, and then to make decisions that bring their organization into alignment with it. The decisions that these leaders make are better understood and accepted because they have done what they can to listen and to respond. This kind of communication can establish mutual trust and cohere an organization to make it through.

These leaders also choose to communicate as humans. They are vulnerable and transparent when they speak. They know that their organization is a group of other humans, who each have their own emotions and experiences. They connect at human level, and everything they say feels personal. By building these kinds of meaningful connections with thoughtful and truthful communication, a purposeful leader finds that their community is engaged and invested throughout a rough patch.

Showing up with purpose

Leaders are always held to a higher standard, and in a crisis, when fuses tend to shorten, it is even more critical that they remain patient, conscious and aware of others’ needs. First and foremost, these leaders invest in themselves at these times. They choose self-care to avoid spinning out and fearlessly explore their own reactions and experiences. They pause, reflect and breathe into how they are in each moment, and are intentional about how they want to show up in the next one. When they give themselves the space and grace to pause, they can continue to be a source of strength for others.

Beyond the personal, these leaders know that they have told the world their organization is a certain way and believes in certain things. Some organizations have a set of values that they believe, when lived, will make their purpose real. Purposeful leaders take stock of how they live into these values even during a crisis. They want to make sure that they are demonstrating to others that the tough times are when living into their foundations are most important. When a leader acts with integrity, others know the purpose of the organization is real, not just a tagline.

So how does this apply to you? If your organization has a purpose, never has the time been more important for you to show up for it, live it and make decisions in pursuit of it. And even if your organization doesn’t have a purpose, you can be purposeful by choosing how to live and decide with integrity. By getting clear on your purpose and behaving more purposefully, you can navigate through this crisis and find a potent transformation for you and your organization.

Are you curious about how purposeful your leadership is at this moment? Download our Personal Values Alignment exercise to assess how aligned you are with your company or personal values.

Avatar photoSavage Brands believes in unleashing the good inherent within all organizations. Business results are driven by connecting with people at the belief level. That’s why we align everything a company says and does with its Purpose through a proven process that links strategy and execution with “why.” We solve the challenges corporate America faces by building tribal loyalty from the inside out, focusing on people first to deliver authentic brand experiences. Savage builds purposeful brands, communications, leaders and cultures.