Wright Foundation | February 1, 2022

Crisis NOT Averted: How Transformational Leadership Calms Crisis

What’s the secret to leading in times of crisis? Tapping into our transformational leadership skills can help us connect with others, even if we’re uncertain and afraid.

What's the secret to leading in times of crisis? Tapping into our transformational leadership skills can help us connect with others, even if we're uncertain and afraid.

When the pandemic first began, none of us had any idea what was ahead of us. Were we safe to go to the grocery store? Were we safe to go to work? Visit our parents? Let them hug their grandkids?

Even after what feels like so much time has passed, most of us still aren’t sure what the future holds. So as leaders in business and in life, what is the best way for us to respond?

As transformational leaders.

Transformational leadership lets us show up differently. Transformational leaders look forward. They lead with strategy, empathy, a sense of authenticity, and so much more. If we focus on these qualities, they will help us “helm the ship” as the people in our personal and professional lives continue to look to us for guidance.

How can we up our game from being excellent leaders to being transformational leaders?

One of These Leaders is Not Like the Others

There’s been a great deal of research on the qualities embodied by excellent leaders. Having worked with leaders across many industries, including Fortune 500 companies and startups, I have seen many different styles and types of leaders.

However, in his studies, leadership expert Todd Herman found that there are three types of leaders in times of crisis:

1. Fear-focused leadership

Fear-focused leaders stare at the “fire” and worry as the house burns down around them. They spend time on the news, on Facebook, and Twitter. They watch the problem unfold but tend to talk about the issues as hopeless and insurmountable.

2. Unfocused leadership

Unfocused leaders don’t fare much better. They have some strategy, but then they get stuck before taking action. These leaders spend a lot of time online to figure out the best approach and get distracted by each new development of the crisis.

3. Focused and strategic leadership

Focused and strategic leadership embodied the qualities we see in transformational leaders. They keep going. They have grit. They talk in positive language. They reconfigure teams, triage, and get to work looking at new approaches.

Interestingly, a portion of these leaders also reported that they are regular meditators. Being mindful, calm, and present, they know how to stay the course and focus on their path. They walk their talk and they don’t disconnect through the process.

Even when the future is uncertain, transformational leaders bring a sense of comfort and trust to those they’re leading.

Let’s Take A Closer Look at Transformational Leadership

As Bass and Riggio defined in their book, Transformational Leadership, the most influential leaders know how to adapt and rise to the occasion, especially when the occasion is a crisis. They lead with social and emotional intelligence, which includes motivation and vision. They bring meaning to their work, even in times of uncertainty. They engage others and invite them to do the same.

And they care greatly about their employees and their employees’ success.

Take Brad Anderson, the former CEO of Best Buy. When he was working for the company, he had a goal that each employee would be able to lead a store on their own within two years. Each employee was then fostered as a potential, long-term manager with a vested interest in the successful outcome of the company. Because he cared for them as individuals, the company saw great success under his leadership.  

Transformational leaders are socially and emotionally intelligent (SEI) leaders. Does this seem like a soft or lofty concept?

Know this: time and time again, it’s proven to be a key to professional success. In fact, the Harvard Business Review found that their articles on SEI were the most accessed articles, especially in times of crisis.

85% of CEO success is based on SEI skills.

Why? Because the higher up we go on the corporate ladder, the less the technical stuff matters. Think about it. How many CEOs do we think know how to work the machinery in their company? How many tech CEOs understand all the subtle nuances of programming an app or building a website? The higher up we are, the more our leadership ability matters. Social and emotional intelligence is what helps us win the hearts and minds of those we lead and serve.

It is what give us empathy, and we need empathy.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

People are afraid right now, and one of the worst parts of being scared is feeling alone in our fear. It’s important not to deny the fear but also not to let the fear paralyze us. So what can we do? We can consciously create more connectedness. And yes, online connecting counts. That Zoom meeting is the perfect time for us to tune in even more

So what can we do? Reach out. Check-in with our people. Give more than we get. Focus on asking what you can do for others. Help your team problem solve; get on calls, and talk through issues. Stay mindful and focused on your social and emotional intelligence.

Why do you think there were so many focused leaders in Todd Herman’s study regular meditators? Because regular meditation helps us knew how to regulate our own emotions. And that helps us to more effectively regulate others.

It’s tempting to fall into drama when emotions run high, but transformational leaders have the tools they need to stay above the drama.

The truth is, we can never really know what the future will hold, so our intent should always be to survive and thrive. To move forward. To know that we will get through this by caring about each other.

We emerge into a future even more determined to create a world that works for everyone when we do. We’re all connected. Our fates are tied together. As transformational leaders, we can help people grow and discover their most radiant selves.

We can help ourselves do the same. Crisis NOT averted. Crisis met. With calm connection and transformational leadership.

For more ways to connect with others, build relationships, and live your best life, you can explore our webinars and presentations on leadership, relationships, self-discovery, and more on Wright Now. We offer an array of classes to help you get ahead in your career, boost your relationships, and discover yourself. Learn more today, so you can go forth and ignite your world!

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.