A true leader recognizes himself in times of crisis...

Is a good leader in times of "crisis" necessarily better than a good leader in "normal" times?

Recently, a leader said to me, "It's in times of crisis that you see true leaders." My first instinct was to respond, "Yes, you're right!" But immediately after, I regretted my answer because I had the following thought: Oh well, what happens MJ with what you are advocating; that diversity in a team is essential to its success over time?

Because in fact, that's what I deeply believe. When I was a leader in the aerospace industry, my boss used to say to me, "MJ, if all your managers were like Antoine*, you would have a great team!" At first, I didn't say anything, but following other comments of this type, I began to describe to him the strengths and weaknesses of each of my managers, specifying that my role, as a leader, was to know this balance sheet; not to judge them with a view to performance management or to value one more than the other, but rather to know to whom, in relation to what and when I had to distribute the operational requirements to be met, in order to achieve the corporate objectives.

Naturally, this assessment also served as an anchor to help my team members develop, with the help of objectives that would allow them to become better in their role. But instead of only focusing on the "negative" I also wanted my managers to be very aware of the "positive and negative" of each and every one of them so that we could, as a team, support each other in this process.

Take stock of your team; together

I remember Antoine being excellent at leading more complex teams using common sense and an iron fist in a velvet glove. Conversely, Bruno should have been firmer in his management, but he was incredible when it came to talking with the stewards to find solutions that would meet everyone's needs. As for Serge, there was no one more competent than him in crisis situations, it seemed that nothing could stop him and he was always full of ideas. But I never had complete peace of mind because his decisions could sometimes be problematic in the medium or long term. As for Danielle, her analytical mind made her a planner capable of foreseeing everything, but she hated going to see her employees, always finding that she didn't have the time to do so. François, on the other hand, knew the industry like the back of his hand and was an invaluable resource. However, when it came time to do projections or planning, I had a lot of trouble getting it down on paper. He told me that he had it all in his head and that it wasn't his job to sit in his office and do paperwork.

"Diversity in a team is essential to its success over time." MJ Michaud

One day I got my team together and said, "Gang, we're heading into some tough times. There's going to be a lot of layoffs. I don't have your aviation experience, I'm going to need your expertise to guide me through this. I also have a sensitive heart, it hurts me a lot to have to let people go. So Antoine, I'm going to need you to help me determine which ones are the best, even if they are difficult to manage, and to be present when I make the announcements to the employees. Bruno, I'm going to need you to help me get this news to the union and see how we can get their cooperation. Serge, I need you to start targeting what will be the most profitable to deliver in the short term, by department, with the required qualifications and resources. Danielle, connect with each of the managers and start planning with them the internal and external resources required for the deliverables. Francois, you've been through this before, I'm going to need you to guide me and also reassure me by looking at the decisions I'm going to make with me. Tell me if you've seen this before and what the consequences were so that I can adjust."

It was a very trying time, probably a reflection of what is happening now for many companies dealing with this COVID-19 crisis. I am glad that I was able to use the full potential of my team, thanks to the fact that we dared to expose to each other our strengths and weaknesses, without fear of being "punished" but rather, knowing that we could count on our colleagues to compensate if necessary.

To all the CEOs who are currently fighting to keep their organizations, please dare to promote this approach. And above all, don't forget that those who are competent leaders in "normal" times and who in your eyes are less so now, that this does not mean that they have suddenly become incompetent; it simply means that this time of "crisis" will allow your leaders who normally shine less brightly, to show in turn, their full potential!

*Please note that names have been changed to preserve anonymity.

Written by Marie-Josée Michaud
Written by Marie-Josée Michaud

Author of the book 80 heures par semaine, Quand l'hyper performance devient toxique published by Éditions de la Semaine, MJ is also a well-known and respected consultant in the field of psychological health at work and human resources mobilization. She has over twenty years of experience as a production manager and consultant in many fields.