Leaders Lead in Crisis

We are currently living through a global health crisis with no modern-day precedent. Our society needs real leaders people who can help us overcome the limitations of our own weaknesses and fears, helping us work together to achieve a common goal.

When faced with a crisis, we know that real leaders are not born; neither is the ability to help others triumph over adversity written into their genetic code. They are, instead, made. They are forged in crisis. Leaders become “real” when they practice a few key behaviors that gird and inspire people through difficult times. Effective leaders are able to remain calm and maintain a sense of perspective. According to Gene Klann, author of the book Crisis Leadership, “During a crisis, a leader’s goal is to reduce loss and keep things operating as normal as possible.”

As COVID-19 disrupts the global economy, supply chains of businesses and industries are left vulnerable. Our organization, IndustryX, is strategically set up to lead numerous entities seeking to achieve operational excellence amidst the situation. Noman Husain, co-founder of IndustryX, provides insight into how organizations can lead during this crisis. 

Noman describes the difference between management and leadership in the current environment in terms of a “status quo.” Management is about maintaining the status quo; it is about managing the process; it is about efficiency. Leadership is all about changing the status quo; it is about creating the new reality; it is about effectiveness. During stable times, traditional companies work to maintain the status quo and deliver traditional products to the masses. It is considered acceptable as business is thriving. Many times, it is the right strategy to build efficiency, reliability and profitability a low risk strategy. This is a perfect playing field for managers. Companies hire managers because they know exactly what they need to deliver, and they are given resources to do it at the appropriate cost. 

However, Noman reminds us that during times of crisis, management does not work. The market requires leadership. It requires someone who can challenge the status quo, inspire people and forge a path into uncharted territories. We are discovering that traditional business models of producing goods and services are not as profitable as they used to be. Such business models have been fundamentally disrupted and require innovation, a growth mindset and courage to lead in this new environment. 

What’s beautiful about the current disruption is the opportunity it provides for anyone to become a leader, not just those in charge. “Changing the status quo gives us the opportunity to be remarkable, excellent, and significant. We need leaders to lead in crisis and to remain competitive and meet consumer demands,” states Noman.

IndustryX: Center for Operational Excellence is set up to provide leadership to industries during the crisis and help them excel in this new environment. The center’s mission is to develop a structured innovation ecosystem that leverages technology and human skills to design and maintain world-class operations and services, accelerating end-to-end enterprise growth. As markets remain unpredictable and highly competitive, IndustryX seeks to transform the industrial landscape of Southeast Michigan and surrounding areas through industry projects, workforce development, venture, and world-class talent.

Egbe-Etu Etu is a Rumble Fellow and Ph.D. candidate in the Industrial & Systems Engineering department at Wayne State University. He holds a master’s degree in industrial engineering, with which he explored the efficiency of emergency departments (ED) during normal operating conditions. His current research focuses on developing data-driven, multi-scale simulation optimization models for healthcare operations management with an emphasis on improving the ED’s performance in response to a medical surge. In August 2020, his research paper received the best paper award for the healthcare track in the 5th North American Industrial Engineering and Operations Management Conference. He is currently the technical content lead at IndustryX.

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