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How do you lead in crises?

Sept. 21, 2017 | by Mike Bonem

I live in Houston, and this is my first post-Harvey article. We were among the fortunate ones. We didn't experience any loss in the storm, but many in our immediate area and our church didn’t fare so well. And of course, the destruction across the region is incomprehensible. 

So what does one say in a leadership blog after such a massive disaster? Here are four leadership lessons that I’ve learned from Harvey:

• Lead where you are with what you have. No single person or organization had enough resources to deal with the totality of the disaster. But collectively, the response was astounding as churches and other groups opened shelters, organized crews for clean-out and repair work, coordinated meals, and much more. If individuals had thrown up their hands because the task was too big, our area would be in much worse shape today.

• Networks and relationships matter. The post-Harvey scene is still chaotic, but I'm encouraged by increasing coordination among different churches, non-profit, and governmental groups. In many cases, relationships that were developed long before Harvey laid the foundation for this much-needed coordination.

• One of a leader's most important roles is to organize and direct resources. People who were not harmed by Harvey wanted to help, but they often weren't sure what to do. When leaders were able to effectively harness the enormous energy of their respective communities, incredible things were accomplished. 

• There will always be critics. I was disappointed (but not surprised) by some of the critical reports during the storm. But for the most part, I saw leaders doing what they thought was right, regardless of cheap shots from arm chair quarterbacks. Fighting back only wastes the energy that's needed for the real work. 

I hope you never experience a disaster on this scale, but these lessons from Harvey seem applicable for crises of all different types and sizes.

Photo source: istock

Mike Bonem

Mike Bonem is an author, consultant, speaker, church leader, businessperson, husband and father. He loves to help ministries and their leaders reach their God-given potential through strategic planning, organizational design, and coaching. Mike’s books include Thriving in the Second Chair, In Pursuit of Great and Godly Leadership and Leading from the Second Chair. He has spoken across the country and internationally on topics related to ministry leadership and congregational effectiveness. Mike has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a breadth of experience in ministry and business, including 11 years as an executive pastor, consulting with Fortune 100 companies, and leading a start-up business. 

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