by Dr. Ryan B. Jackson

Last week I wrote about entropy, nature’s trend towards disorder and chaos. As a leader, it’s impossible to ignore the high probability of uncertainty, randomness, and chaos impacting your organization or systems at any given moment. It’s coming. It’s inevitable. Be prepared. We painstakingly build policies, procedures, and systems to help safeguard against entropy, but ultimately, it’s how we respond and lean into chaos that sets the stage for our success…or demise. Building on the topic of entropy and how we respond to failure and system breakdowns, this week’s attention shifts towards CRISIS. Read the rest of this blog to learn how you can embrace and maximize the hidden opportunities in crisis.

No matter how you slice it, crisis bears the significance of having both negative connotations and denotation. There is seemingly nothing optimistic about the word or its definitions. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone over the age of 12 who doesn’t have a satirical idea of what a midlife crisis is or looks like. One thing most of us can agree on, however, is that crisis is tethered to time, typically in the form of an event or critical-decision that must be made while the clock is mercilessly ticking. For our purposes here, let’s keep the conversation centered around this space: how moments, decisions, or major events—that formalize as crisis—can become significant turning points in our lives.

It is the wise leader who calms his or her mind amidst the chaos, managing the destructive storm while intently focusing on the hidden opportunities that swirl around us.

Now when we use our better understanding of entropy and crisis, we can start to respond more strategically and effectively to the plethora of critical-moments and events that leaders continuously face. And, we can begin to perceive these failures and seemingly threatening situations as potential gateways to something greater, something originally unthought of or misunderstood. In fact, it’s the paradoxical lever of failure and/or crisis that must be pulled for us to even open or recognize this gateway. Thankfully, albeit painstakingly at times, life is filled with uncertainty, chaos, and constant crisis. Our true test then becomes our ability, as leaders, to embrace or lean into the fear. This embrace positions us in the eye of the storm, where stillness and clarity take hold and opportunities, once hidden by clouded vision caused by panic, stress, and anxiety, become crystallized.

Once we can master this kind of thinking and response to crisis, we edge closer to what famed author and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl called, “…man’s greatest superpower: his ability to choose.” How we choose to respond, how we choose to think, how we choose to embrace ultimately sets the course for our success or lack thereof. Mastering and maximizing this superpower turns crisis into one of our most unlikeliest allies.

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