Responsible and measured crisis management has always been a key objective for Jozef “Jos” Opdeweegh, a seasoned C-suite executive with over 20 years of experience developing, leading, and growing public and private global companies. With a career dedicated to leadership, corporate culture, and business transformation, Opdeweegh has seen organizations rise and fall in response to a variety of unexpected and unplanned changes. In times of crisis, he argues that listening and adapting is critical, and to do so successfully is a test of truly effective leadership.
Jos Opdeweegh shared four key takeaways to guide the executives navigating through stormy waters.
Decision-makers must remain solutions-oriented.
According to Jos Opdeweegh, “Leadership in these circumstances requires more than bravado. It needs a cool head, an ability to take others with us, and perhaps most of all, a clarity of purpose as well as strength and consistency of will.”
A crisis is defined as a moment of intense difficulty or danger; a situation when critical decisions must be made. Specifically, it is a time of turning points — when the actions people choose will steer them to either recovery or disaster. Leaders are the primary decision-makers at these critical turning points in times of crisis. They must be level-headed, encouraging, exacting, and dedicated to those that depend on them.
In times of uncertainty, maintain your leadership values.
“The principles of good leadership surely still apply: a willingness to listen and learn, a focus on the common good, clarity, and consistency to our messaging,” said Jos Opdeweegh.
Experts often point to historical examples in offering guidance to help navigate a crisis. But often, in considering the specifics of a current situation, these parallels are less relevant. And occasionally an unprecedented crisis is what risk analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes as a Black Swan event: a major unforeseen situation, for which we are entirely unprepared — and one with such wide-ranging impact that it changes our view of the world thereafter.
Without concrete lessons from the past, the principles of good leadership are something of a fail-safe. These principles include humility, compassion, emotional intelligence, competence, and cooperation. In troubling times, people recognize these qualities and are actively looking for them in their politicians and influencers.
Opdeweegh is a strong proponent of value-based leadership – the idea that leaders should draw on their own and followers’ values for direction and motivation. He claims that being a good leader involves drawing on these universal values to bring others with you.
Define the organization’s purpose before outlining the direction of next steps.
“The challenge for leaders is that in this moment of greatest uncertainty, the need to provide clarity of purpose and direction is more essential than ever,” Opdeweegh positions.
Jos Opdeweegh consistently champions the value of long-term thinking and cautions against the pitfalls of short-term solutions. In times of crisis, vision and intention are imperative to prepare for the consequences and opportunities that lie beyond our immediate difficulties.
Uncertainty and unease call for actions that demonstrate purpose and direction. And before any action is even taken, that intention must be established. If purpose is the core plan, then direction is the route for translating that purpose into action. Leaders must create a sense of shared purpose, set the direction of travel and guide behavior towards those goals.
Seek impact, rather than consensus.
Jos Opdeweegh also asserted, “Leadership, almost by definition, will never please all parties, nor is it intended to, but there comes a point when a path must be chosen.” To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “A true leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of it.”
Ideally, that consensus should help to shape our actions beyond the immediate hiatus.
Opdeweegh suggests the various responses to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and how the decisions which followed have impacted those countries, are exemplary of the difference between action and avoidance. He points to the stark contrast between the outcome of the bold action taken by Germany in uniting its country and the grim realities of many former Soviet states.
In drawing lessons from the past, it is relevant that Germany acted with speed as well as clarity of vision. And in returning to the present, it is surely significant that organizations that take the most immediate measures, and proactively focus on containment are those that are successful in reducing further damage.
Opdeweegh concludes that in times of real crisis, whatever path is chosen, leaders must offer their constituents hope. “Today – more than at any time in history – we vastly greater potential to communicate and marshal our actions in a coordinated and steadfast manner. ” If we can add hope and the motivation which comes with it, then “leadership becomes the organization’s most powerful tool in tackling the challenges that unfold.”