Do you have what it takes to maintain control in a severe crisis?
Southwest Airlines pilot Tammie Jo Shults, a veteran pilot of three decades, recently demonstrated she did. And was universally praised for her “nerves of steel.”
Shults safely landed the Boeing 737 in Philadelphia following an engine fire at 30,000 feet, and was applauded for maintaining her cool. Because of her demeanor and acumen, 144 passengers and five crew members survived, while tragically one passenger, Jennifer Riordan, died from her injuries.Southwest Airlines pilot Tammie Jo Shults, a veteran pilot of three decades, has been universally praised for her nerves of steel. #bravewomen Click To Tweet
According to the Wall Street Journal, “A website called ATC Memes has posted on YouTube the conversation between Ms. Shults and air traffic controllers. At the outset, the pilot calmly announces, “Southwest 1380 has an engine fire. Descending.”
James Freeman writes, “A short time later she reports, ‘Actually no fire now, but we are single-engine.’ At one point she informs controllers, ‘We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit.’ Each report from the cockpit is delivered in the same even and reassuring tone.”
Rebecca Nicholson writes in The Guardian, “Those present recalled that after the plane had landed, Shults walked through the aisle to talk to them, to see how they were doing. One passenger, Alfred Tumlinson, told reporters that he would send the pilot ‘a Christmas card, I’m going to tell you that, with a gift certificate for getting me on the ground. She was awesome.’ News outlets have delved into her life story and it has turned out to be astonishing. Shults was one of the first female fighter pilots in the US Navy and was elite enough to fly an F/A-18 Hornet. She flew training missions as an ‘enemy pilot’ during Operation Desert Storm, as women were then still excluded from combat missions.
This approach of persistence and congeniality may indeed be female traits, research shows.
“In times of crisis, more stereotypical feminine qualities like being collaborative or good with people are often seen as particularly important. Thus, it may be that women are thought to be more suitable in certain types of crisis situations, since they are believed to possess these kinds of social qualities more so than do men,” writes Marianne Cooper of Stanford University on LinkedIn.Research suggests stereotypically feminine qualities may be particularly important during a crisis. #womenleaders Click To Tweet
She continues, “Research into the particular circumstances under which feminine traits are considered to be especially important are when a leader is expected to manage people, work behind the scenes to manage a crises, and be a scapegoat.”
Gender may or not play a role in how a leader handles a crisis, but as a women leader, you can decide how you will behave. And it is likely you will have a crisis on your hands eventually.Gender may or not play a role in how a leader handles a crisis, but as a #womenleader, you can decide how you will behave. Click To Tweet
“A disaster is a moment of truth for an organization. It’s a time when competent leaders prove their mettle and when pretenders reveal their impotence. Data breaches, customer service debacles, recall fiascos — crises are everywhere, and countless institutions have been sunk by an unseen bombshell. But in many cases, it isn’t the crisis itself that causes an organization to flounder; too often it’s a leader’s response to the crisis that causes the greatest damage,” writes Karima Mariama-Arthur, founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport in Entrepreneur.
Here are five tips from experts on how best to handle a crisis on your watch. It does not have to be life or death—as in the case of Shults—but a crisis can have grave consequences professionally, economically and personally. It’s best to know how to manage yourself and your team during such chaotic times.A crisis can have grave consequences professionally, economically and personally. It’s best to know how to manage yourself and your team during such chaotic times. #crisisprevention Click To Tweet
- Get the best information you can. “One of the most important things that you can do in any crisis is understand what’s going on to the best of your ability, and that begins by gathering facts and assembling information, and many times as you know in a crisis there’s tremendous confusion, incredible uncertainty. You have no idea what’s going on. You’re getting many conflicting pieces of information, but these are so important and we have to assess how we’re positioned to deal with this emergency based on the situational awareness,” says Regina Phelps, founder of Emergency Management and Safety Solutions, a consulting company specializing in incident management, exercise design and continuity and pandemic planning.
- Stay calm and carry on. “Demeanor and decisions are hallmark and legacy of leadership in crisis, and the first has direct bearing on the second. Both are served well by calm. How you present yourself, to those who must execute your decisions, immediately imprints their organizational and administrative focus, resolve and implementation. How and what you decide as an action response will reveal the aptitude and attitude of your judgment. Astute analysis and assessment requires clarity, which comes when settling the dust storm of thoughts and emotions whipped up by the event threat,” writes Alicia Bassuk, leadership coach and consultant with Ubica, in Huffington Post.
- Act quickly, but be careful. “Once a decision has been made and a plan has been developed and vetted, it must be put it into action as quickly as possible. Time is usually of the essence in such scenarios, so there can be no dillydallying or feet dragging. When crises demand same-day responses, delays can be perceived as incompetence or even indifference, both of which can exacerbate a crisis. When more time is available to consider possible solutions, take it,” Mariami-Arthur writes.
- Carpe the chaos. This is #5 of the 9 Leadership Power Tools developed by Gloria Feldt, president and co-founder of Take The Lead. She explains that chaos and crisis can indeed be confusing. “But chaos also means boundaries become more fluid. That’s when people are open to new ways of thinking, to innovation, and to new roles for women. Carpe the chaos, for in chaos is opportunity.”
- It’s not personal. “Good leaders don’t take failures personally. Failure is a part of life. Not every strategy or decision you make will yield favorable results. As a leader, you would do well not to take things personally or feel rejected when things don’t turn out well. You really don’t have much control on which side of the equation the results your decisions end up being. The more you start taking things personally, the more difficult it gets to maintain your composure,” writes Sameer Bhatia, CEO of ProProfs, in Forbes.
- Communicate with precision. “Communication is a staple of crisis management. No one will ever complain for being communicated with too much during a crisis as long as communications are clear, concise and timely,” according to Regina Phelps.
Hopefully you may never have to manage a team or an organization during a severe crisis. But knowing how best to lead during and after a crisis can give you the reassurance and confidence that you can handle anything.