After a crisis occurs, there are is inevitably a logistical and an emotional aftermath that follows. For most leaders, the logistical aftermath is a bit easier to navigate. There are certain follow up to-dos that we can execute much like a checklist (and a checklist may even be available to us within our emergency preparedness plans). Did we provide follow-up communication to necessary constituents? How will we navigate our work environment when we open for business again the next day? Have we considered crisis management responses and how they will be implemented? Check, check and check!
At some point, however, the end of a crisis finds us walking Jello-legged to our vehicles, makeup smeared and downtrodden, depleted from the day's events. Our brains our foggy as we routinely stick the key in the ignition and star bleakly ahead as the air from the heat or air conditioner hits us in our dry, tired eyes. This is the beginning of the emotional aftermath. Here, it isn't unusual to find yourself laughing hysterically, or in weepy, uncontrollable tears. You might phone a friend. You may find yourself talking to God.
After a crisis, how do we, as leaders, navigate the emotional aftermath when, by nature, we typically are pretty good at keeping our emotions under wraps? What happens in that first minute of solitude? What happens when we finally kick off our shoes at the end of that long, difficult day? Let's first look at attributes of a secure school leader using a psychological backing, and then explore what that secure school leader needs to consider when navigating uncertain post-crisis shores.
Attributes of a secure school leader
Characteristics of a secure leader might first be best explored through an understanding of the prefrontal cortex, or PFC. The PFC is located in our frontal lobe - the part of our brain just behind our forehead. The PFC is in charge of higher cognitive functions, such as attention, flexibility, planning, memory and problem-solving. As you can see, a high-functioning PFC is a huge attribute of an effective school leader!
Psychologists tell us that individuals labeled as "secure" have robust functioning in the PFC. Eight specific robust areas include: body regulation (hello fight-or-flight!), attuned communication, emotional balance, response flexibility, empathy, insight, fear modulation, and intuition. Considering these functions, its easy to see how a secure leader may function well post-crisis. When we can focus on growing within these areas - creating a more integrated PFC - we can more appropriately respond to and recover from a crisis, decreasing the emotional aftermath of an event. Using the acronym FACES we can we can create a leadership lifestyle that is more conducive to flexibility, adaptation, coherency, energy, and stability (as cited by Curt Thompson in Anatomy of the Soul, 2010).
Linger a Little Longer:
1. How does the emotional aftermath of a crisis vary from the logistical aftermath?
2. Do you current feel more adequately equipped to handle the logistical or emotional aftermath of a crisis event?
3. In which element of FACES do you currently feel strong? Where is your current weakness and what is one next right thing you can do to improve your leadership in this area?