Pivotal Moments: How Leaders Can Prepare for the Unexpected
Leadership StrategiesHealthcare
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June 11, 2020
Leadership StrategiesHealthcare
The Pharmaceutical Executive article, "Pivotal Moments: How Leaders Can Prepare for the Unexpected​," featured Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Dana Krueger​ on ​how leaders can best navigate challenging times. The article is excerpted below.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Flexibility, adaptability, and open-mindedness are all important concepts when it comes to running a business. You never know when a curve ball will catch you by surprise. But when that curve ball is big enough to change your entire game—say a global pandemic—these qualities become critical. Sure, leaders can draw on their experiences for possible direction, but in unprecedented times, there is no proven course of action to follow. There is no playbook to rely on.


“Having an open mind and being agile and flexible are almost table stakes in situations like these,” says Dana M. Krueger, managing director and global healthcare sector leader at Russell Reynolds Associates. “But what makes a leader really stand out is being decisive and willing to take risks. That means not only are you open for input more broadly, you’re also keeping the longer term in mind, you’re grounding things in purpose, and you’re willing to make a decision that might be wrong, but you can always change course as necessary.”


Though it may seem risky, bold decision-making can help cut through the ambiguity of novel situations. It’s easy to become paralyzed by the amount of everchanging information coming across your desk, but swift choices keep you moving. While there is potential for mistakes when acting quickly, the key is to know when to pivot. It’s okay to try a different, riskier approach, as long as you recognize where the new direction can lead you.


“That really instills confidence in an organization, in a team, and energizes people around a common goal,” says Krueger.


While being bold to address short-term priorities is important, you need to strike a balance with thinking toward the future. Eventually, the crisis will subside, and it’s what you’re prepared to do at the other end that will carry you forward. This is a great time to tap into your company’s core values and mission statement. Weighing options against what is fundamental to the company can help guide decisions.


“Great leaders change their approach to communication in times of crisis by making it more two-way than it might [be] in a typical scenario,” says Krueger. “If they engage earnestly with those around them, have the humility to ask questions, and listen to a wide range of opinions, they often create not only a sense of togetherness, but they also often are able to envision and ultimately rally the broader organization around what is the path forward.”


Of course, emerging from a crisis is not a one-person job, and one of the most effective ways to prepare for the unexpected is to prepare others to be leaders. “The best leaders step up individually during turbulent times, but they also provide others the latitude to lead,” says Krueger. “In turbulent times, the strongest leadership often comes from those without senior titles. Don’t stand in the way, and let emerging stars shine.”


To read the full article, click here