As most institutional leaders have been dealing with immediate challenges — moving classes online and the complexities of transitioning staff, faculty, and students into new spaces — the focus has been on leading during a crisis.

But how do you lead during a crisis and simultaneously lead out of one?

The current environment calls on institutional leaders — presidents and boards — to increase engagement and strategic thinking.

A new post from the Harvard Business Review, “Executives and Boards, Avoid These Missteps in a Crisis,” written by Heidi K. Gardner and Randall S. Peterson, offers some guidelines and cautions.

Stress on leaders can lead to “threat rigidity” which (the authors say) is the tendency to freeze innovation and resort to actions that have worked in the past, as opposed to considering new approaches for a new time — particularly a time when adaptive thinking is crucial.

The authors suggest that leaders do three things:

  1. Avoid narrow thinking. Don’t fall back on the comfortable, but consider new voices, including external partners, to think alongside you and help you consider options.
  2. Avoid deferring to the leader. Don’t rely solely on the president, but recognize this is an ideal time to include other perspectives.
  3. Avoid conformity. Don’t pressure dissenters among the board to fall into line just because the majority has made up its mind. Sometimes it’s the dissenting voice that reminds the group to consider other, perhaps better, options.

Read the full article here.

Times of crisis are also times of opportunity — opportunity for deep engagement, discussions, strategic thinking, contingency planning, and transformation.

some questions to consider as you lead out of a crisis

  • Have you created the space for strategic discussions?
  • Does the board have the information it needs to support and engage in long-range planning? What is missing and what would be valuable?
  • Are you inviting disruption into the boardroom?
  • Is the unique talent of each member of the board being drawn upon? Is each voice being heard?
  • And are you falling into any of the traps listed above?

What information and resources does your leadership team and board need as you lead out of crisis? Email resources@intrust.org to connect, share, and learn. The In Trust Center is hosting peer conversations and curating resources to support you. Let us know how we can help.