Book Excerpt: 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis

In Leadership Is an Art, Max DePree writes, "The leader's first job is to define reality. The last is to say thank you." Before you can lead your organization through a crisis, you have to acknowledge that you are indeed in one. Next, you have to get everyone else to acknowledge it as well. Only then can you define the problems accurately and develop plans to deal with them. Why is this so difficult? Leaders often go into denial about the urgency and severity of the challenges they are facing. Or they tend to blame external events, people, or organizations for their problems. Without accepting that the problem is theirs to fix, they cannot understand what they are dealing with. Often the hardest part is to acknowledge your role in the origins of the crisis. Even when leaders acknowledge their responsibility, they may face significant resistance from their organizations in solving it because people have great difficulty in admitting their mistakes. This is why crises require so much skill on the leader's part.

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