Throughout the pandemic, we all heard countless pundits share their thoughts on leadership during a crisis. Now, a similar trend is emerging in response to inflation. But is good leadership any different in a time of crisis — pandemic, financial or otherwise? From a skills standpoint, perhaps.
Times of crisis require tech-savvy leaders who use data for effective decision-making. The ability to deliver information to the troops effectively and compassionately matters, but that’s a skill, not a behavior or character trait. You can learn how to restructure a balance sheet, but can you learn how to be self-aware, authentic, humble and driven when asking teams to follow?
Perhaps all the talk about the “science” of leadership is meant to make it confusing. Those of us with experience in this industry know exactly what to look for in our leaders. Of course, no one is “off the charts” in every area, whether in a steady state or a crisis period. Trade-off is inherent in the placement of top leaders, and assessing these attributes is as much an art as it is a science.
Regardless of the circumstances, good leaders have many of the following traits and behaviors:
- Flexible and willing / able to pivot
- Enable a nimble culture
- Take risks and are sometimes wrong
- Intellectually curious
- Effective at critical thinking
- Data- and fact-based decision-making
- Paint a compelling vision
- Simple, direct and substantive communication
- Build followers by telling high-impact stories
- Comfortable in their own skin
- Vulnerable when warranted
- Leverage their uniqueness
- Decisive and able to make tough calls
- Monitor results to ensure team accountability
- Resilient and steady
- Passionate and positive
- Create urgency with personal action
- Stimulate consensus driven decision making
- Exude integrity
- Naturally transparent
- Admit error in judgments
- Encourage multiple viewpoints
- Listen to and digest those viewpoints
- Embrace diversity
- Know their own strengths and weaknesses
- Empathetic and cultivate the same in others
- Believe in personal and professional development
As the world shifts, it’s time to revisit the skills required in our leaders. However, the fundamental human element of what good leaders do — the behaviors and traits that are imperative to how they deal with, manage and relate to their people — has not changed. In fact, those attributes will be even more critical as we manage through and emerge from one of the most challenging economic events any of us have ever encountered.
Meet the Authors
Keith Giarman serves as Managing Partner of the Private Equity Practice, based out of the San Francisco and New York offices.
Jes Beach is a Senior Associate supporting the Private Equity and Board & CEO Practices. She is based in Chicago.