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The Four Keys to Leading in a Crisis: #4 Persistence

October 13, 2020

This week, I’m wrapping up a blog series about the four keys to leading a crisis.

Over the last three weeks, I’ve talked about the importance of purpose, perspective, and process, and today, I’m going to unpack persistence, which may be the most important key. 

Before we go any further, let me be clear—persistence is not fun. Persistence means pressing on in the face of difficulty and opposition. If there is no difficulty, there is no need to be persistent.

I knew this principle was important, but it became more clear to me a few years ago when I led our team through one of ADDO’s most difficult seasons.

At the time, there were three senior leaders who shared equal authority in running the company. I thought all of us had only minor differences in our sense of purpose and priority, but it turns out these differences were far deeper than I imagined. As time went by, we became like a dysfunctional family. For the sake of saving your time and my sanity, I’ll spare you the rest. It was a mess. 

Eventually, I had the tough conversation necessary to make it right. One of the leaders left ADDO taking some of our team with him, and I assumed the role I am in today. This was a difficult transition for our team, and as a leader, it was my responsibility to give our team a means to and reason to persist.

In a crisis, leaders must acknowledge the reality of the current situation and then inspire hope for a brighter future.

But, it needs to happen in that order. Offering hope without being honest about our present circumstances is fluffy and inauthentic. But only facts without hope can feel depressing. So as I led my team through this season, I had to find a balance of both. I needed to make it clear where we stood financially. I had to be honest about what would look different. But I also had to give them confidence that our company’s future was bright. 

Defining reality and giving hope helped my team not only persist but thrive. We came out of this tumultuous season and have never been more unified than we are today. And a few weeks ago, we were named the #1 Best Place to Work for small businesses in Atlanta for the second year in a row!

Persistence requires you to push through even in the darkest moments and believe in the hope of a brighter future. 

While slaves fled for their freedom on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman told them, “If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” Tubman knew that no matter what was behind them, their only chance at freedom was to keep moving forward. She knew that surrender meant death or a lifeless existence, but that moving forward meant a chance at life.

When there is a crisis, the best leaders challenge people to be persistent despite their present circumstances. And persistence fuels leaders to excel in the other three keys to leading in a crisis.

When you persist through any crisis, you strengthen your resolve for your purpose, you obtain a perspective that helps you face future challenges, and you refine your processes to make you and your organization better for the future.

I know this season is hard, but I hope this blog series has encouraged you as a leader. Don’t simply wish it away. Use this season to lean in and learn something valuable. You never know how it could impact your future as a company.


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