Leading through a Storm
Times of crisis are inevitable! They are sudden and potentially extremely damaging. They evoke fear, triggering extreme emotional responses. For the leader this requires steady, measured responses. Crisis situations can be viewed as a chance to pivot to needed change, a chance to emerge as an organization and to demonstrate God’s hand on the mission.
For a mission centered on and representing Jesus, the first response to a crisis should be dependence on him for wisdom and for guidance. “But thou, O Lord, art a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3 (RSV)
At the start of the present pandemic the TWR leadership team asked the Lord to open and close doors and to clearly guide as we moved forward into the unknown.
Having lived through a number of “crisis situations” such as the stock market plunge in 1987, the 9/11 crisis, the Asian tsunami, the Great Recession of 2008 to 2009, the current coronavirus pandemic and societal turmoil starting in 2019, here are several observations on how a leader can thrive in the midst of crisis.
Continue in your God-given mission.
I’ve observed that when crisis hits, many times there are ‘pivots’ to match the crisis, enabling an organization to make fundraising cases to their constituencies. In the case of the Asian tsunami, one organization raised several million dollars, and had no infrastructure to deliver programs. Thus monies were transferred to another organization resulting in several large administrative charges since several organizations were now involved. In contrast, the organization I was with, stood aside, and let relief organizations raise needed funds for Indonesia and Southeast Asia.
It has been my experience that God honors us when we stay within the calling that he has given an organization in order to perform a certain work in the world.
Convene short-term contingency planning.
Immediately convene your leadership team to assess what the “worst case” scenario could be.
Immediately convene your leadership team to assess what the “worst case” scenario could be. In light of that assessment, determine the first courses of potential action, the amount of resources necessary and a short-term course of action.
The TWR team determined how much cash we had available, the potential sources of additional income and what we would do under various scenarios. We generated a fundraising plan, pursued additional sources of income and put all options on the table—even down to selling our building if necessary.
Ensure continuous communication.
Most leaders and organizations center on internal communications during a crisis, it’s necessary to assure staff and provide as stable environment as possible. We instituted a global briefing by the president and organized global, online, prayer meetings where the staff and leaders from the regions of the world assembled online and prayed.
External communication is just as necessary and maybe more so. While internal folks desperately need to know how to respond and what to do, it is essential that external messages get out to an organization’s publics.
For nonprofits, people will remember you if they heard from you in a relevant manner during a crisis. Tell people what you are doing to execute your mission in a fast-changing environment. (Believe me, the environment changes quickly in the middle of crisis!)
Pursue continuous evaluation and action.
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in late March/early April, our international executive team convened via Zoom every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (EST) to analyze the current situation, evaluate financial and human resources, and make decisions leading to immediate courses of action. The key question was, “What will it take to be sure we continue to execute our mission globally?”
Since travel was non-existent, money was freed up to be put into extremely needy situations internationally. Food was stockpiled in studios and transmitter sites so that TWR could produce programming, stay online and on-the-air. We produced global COVID programming, how to protect yourself and how to detect if you are infected.
Thriving spiritual leadership brings hope, resources and concentrated effort to critical situations.
Of equal importance is communicating spiritual perspective: reminding people that the Lord is not surprised by the global situation, and that he offers a certainty in this life and eternally.
The end products of crisis leadership are bringing stability in the midst of instability, hope in the midst of confusion and order in the face of disorder. Thriving spiritual leadership brings hope, resources and concentrated effort to critical situations. As leaders we move in concert with the Holy Spirit in complex situations. Ultimately, we’re agents of the Lord bringing his perspective and involvement to bear in critical situations.
Lauren Libby serves as International President/CEO of global media ministry TWR. He formerly served with The Navigators in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in various executive roles. Lauren is a member of the NRB Board of Directors, served as Board member of The University of Northwestern, St. Paul and has served on the ECFA Board of Directors. He also serves as Chairman of The New Horizons Foundation Board.