How to Lead Through Crisis

by Paul Alexander


If you lead long enough, eventually you’re going to find yourself leading through a crisis, and it’s at this moment that leadership is needed most.

Even an average leader looks great when momentum is on their side and things are going well. But a crisis or downturn has a way of revealing the true identity of a leader.

Great leaders lean into crisis because they intuitively understand that crisis is an opportunity for change and could be their greatest leadership moment.

In the consulting work I do with The UnStuck Group, oftentimes it’s the pain of a crisis or downturn that helps churches realize that they’re stuck and motivates them to seek help. Pain, oftentimes, can be a great motivator for change.

While crisis is a window of opportunity for incredible leadership moments, the approach you take to leading through crisis matters.

1. Lean into who you already are.

I can’t stress this enough. The most important question to ask during a crisis is, “Who has God called us to be?”

Too often, churches search for a silver-bullet tactic that will solve their pain. It doesn’t exist. Instead of searching for an easy way out, press into who God has uniquely called your church to be and your core identity.

Then begin making everyday decisions filtered through that identity and what it will take to be more of who you already are.

2. Take on a posture of humility.

You know who listens to a know-it-all? No one.

If you want to be heard in a crisis, then take on a posture of humility and lead with questions, not answers.

3. Listen first, speak second.

Many churches begin implementing too quickly in a crisis due to their desire to move past or away from pain as fast as they possibly can.

Unfortunately, without first having a clear understanding of where you are and an accurate picture of your current reality, your next step will most likely be a misstep.

Oftentimes, it’s impossible to get a clear picture of reality because you’re in it—and you need someone from the outside to help you who has “fresh eyes.”

4. Outlast your critics.

Perseverance is a highly underrated leadership tactic. It may not be sexy, but it is necessary.

Everyone has fans and everyone has critics. You need to learn to listen to the right people. Otherwise, you’ll drift toward people-pleasing and the church will suffer from mission creep.

5. Don't mistake kindness for weakness.

Often, kindness is confused with weakness in church leaders. In the middle of crisis, kindness is needed, but so is clear, strong, consistent leadership.

Don’t confuse kindness and weakness.



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