This recent post on www.hbr.org about being a business leader in a war-torn country provides unique perspective and valuable insight into how to lead in a real, life-threatening crisis that can also be applied in any sort of crisis. And since this important story was written by Christos Tsolkas who’s also a member of our Global Institute for Leadership Development® faculty, we have firsthand knowledge of what Christos and his team went through when they were working in Ukraine. Here’s an excerpt.
“Most of the world views the turmoil in Ukraine as a geopolitical and humanitarian catastrophe. In my former position as Managing Director of Philip Morris Ukraine where I was based from January 2012 until February 2015, I was forced to see it as a business crisis that threatened our people, operations, and bottom line. When peaceful protests turned into violent clashes between demonstrators and police, and fighting engulfed the nation, every rule of normal business collapsed. Our supply and distribution lines were impeded; we lost market territory to war and annexation; we had to manage the impact of military mobilization of our workers, and we needed to relocate or redeploy almost a hundred employees and their families.
“In that confusion, I had two clear priorities: to secure the safety of our employees at all costs; and to maintain our operations to whatever degree possible.
“I tried to give my team in Ukraine this perspective. It is easy to feel anxiety, responsibility, and even shame when things go wrong in a business. But you can only make good, prompt decisions that move the organization forward if you have enough detachment to view the confusion in a clear-eyed and objective way. Indeed, Ukraine’s troubles offered an opportunity to build the leadership capacity of my management team.”
Talk about “trial by fire.” Running a business in a war zone may be one way to build the capacity of your leadership team. But we can also say from experience, there are other effective (and much safer!) ways to cultivate strong, resilient leaders.
How do you lead in a crisis? Please share your thoughts with us below.