Mar 30 2020| crisis | Leadership | Values

Leading in a Crisis - Hold On to the Right Things

Abandon baggage, not principles

by Phil Eyre Founer

It seems like a very long time has passed since I last took a flight. In fact, it was only three weeks ago, such is the speed and weight of the crisis that we are in.


I’m sure (at least I hope) that I’m not the only one who’s ever wondered what I would take with me in the event of a “landing on water”. The safety announcements ask us to leave our hand luggage behind, so I ask myself, ‘what do I need in my pocket or within easy reach?’ Certainly my phone, sometimes my passport - for ease of identification if it all goes wrong - perhaps my wallet, to buy essentials when we get to safety.


What you must hold on to


The current crisis feels for many people, including or perhaps especially, business leaders, like severe turbulence on a flight; uncomfortable and unnerving, if not more serious than that. We should be prompted to ask ourselves what we are holding on to fast and what can stay in the proverbial overhead locker. In the event of a hard landing, we can’t take it all; so what *must* we take? 


My strong suggestion is that there is only one thing to hold tightly onto - our principles. It’s very easy in times of turbulence and crisis to abandon our beliefs. We can quickly jump to what seems expedient - it is, after all, a crisis - and believe that we’ll get back to leading in the way that we intend once things settle down. But that won’t happen;  we will be judged now and in the future by the extent to which we hold to our principles at every moment.  If we are not careful, we might permit behaviours in others that we wouldn’t otherwise permit. We might permit behaviours in ourselves that we would usually resist.


No exceptions


Seth Godin, technology entrepreneur and author, puts it well; ‘When we make a “just this once” exception, we’ve already made a decision about what’s truly important.’


What we choose to hold on to now strongly indicates what matters the most to us, how we handle this crisis and how we will emerge from it.  Is “put your people first” one of your principles? Great! Then don’t reduce your headcount to enable you to qualify for small business assistance.  Is another principle “treat people kindly”? Brilliant! Then don’t be a bully, even for a moment.


Your values mantra


  • We might not be able to take every product with us into the future, but we can take our principles.


  • We might not be able to take our current personal financial objectives into the future, but we can take our principles.


  • We might not be able to take today’s career aspirations with us, but we can take our principles.


As leaders, we need to be prepared to let go of things that, until recently, seemed very important. Specific products, launch timetables, career targets, financial performance, status, second home in France, retirement plans. These have become baggage; being too concerned about them will constrain our ability to think clearly about the new world that we’re in.


We must focus instead on holding on to our principles. It’s these that will provide the basis for the most creative ideas and the best serve-to-lead solutions that will ensure the company survives - possibly thrives - way beyond this crisis and our tenure at the helm.


Here to help


My work includes supporting and challenging leadership team to live their values. Now, more than ever, those words on the walls must be lived and practised. All. The. Time.


I’m here to help; if you need to clarify your principles or are facing a dilemma, I would be pleased to ask good questions, be a sounding board and help to clarify your thoughts and feelings.

About The Author | Phil Eyre

Phil is Leaders’ founder. He has an enthusiastic and inspiring style, drawing on his experience in business, academia and social sectors to help any leadership team to achieve phenomenal performance. Phil has sophisticated expertise in psychometrics and in the application of human data for individual, team and organisational success. He has trained with, and been mentored by, global leaders in this field, notably Dr Chuck Coker in the US. Phil began his career in the UK offshore finance industry in 1994, working for a wealth management company in Guernsey, Collins Stewart (CI) Limited, now Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil was head of the company's Guernsey division, with a staff of 120 and assets under management of £4.5billion before resigning from executive responsibilities in 2008. Phil has served on the boards of three charities, including BMS World Mission, a UK charity with over 80 employees and a global reach. Phil also ran the Guernsey hub of a national theology college, received accreditation as a pastor in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and served as a non-executive director for Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil is a member of the Institute of Directors.

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