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How to be the Brave Champion that Leads Through a Crisis By John L Howard MD

by | In the Magazine, John L Howard MD

It is easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged during any crisis.

Still, the coaches, consultants, leaders, and entrepreneurs who have developed good leadership skills and attributes will be the ones that come through this stronger when the chaos subsides.

The good news is, this crisis like all crises will eventually pass. The challenge for the leader is to stay strong and steady throughout the duration.

This crisis will reveal just what type of character you have.

What choices you have made in the past that have forged your character.

Those that have invested in leadership development and connecting with others will be unmasked as the ones that have a clear vision and can adapt to shifting circumstances.

Just like great football coaches make adjustments at halftime, great leaders can adapt to the uncertainty of the moment and find a proactive solution that creates forward momentum.

Adaptable leaders can turn adversity into an advantage; a crisis turns into an opportunity to get better.

No, it’s not easy. Leaders are humans too and experience fear as well, but we accept the responsibility of leading through the bad times; times when the leader is needed the most.

The unenviable mission is navigating through today when it’s not apparent there will be a tomorrow, and the primary reason there won’t be a tomorrow is giving in to fear today.

How do we do that in scary times?

By being a Brave Champion.

Below is an acrostic that will help you be the brave champion you need to be either as an entrepreneur or as a coach imparting these principles to your clients.


Brighter Days are ahead. (BR)

Ask any military commander in the middle of a fight with bullets flying everywhere and deafening artillery bursting eardrums.

They’ll tell you are calm was as important as training and group cohesion in winning battles. Being calm is contagious, and when the leader has it, the followers will catch it.

So be reflective and ask yourself how are you modeling and portraying yourself to the team.

What can you do that provides the most value right now.

Remind your staff of all the crises that we have come through as a country, a company, and perhaps even in your own life.

This is a season, and it too will pass. Illustrate this by vividly painting a picture of how they came through these past circumstances, as well as creating another picture of the brighter days ahead.

Days that create a light that is so strong it overtakes the dark.


Admit the fear, but don’t fuel it. (A)

Good intentioned leaders that try to dismiss the fears that people have or the gravity of the crisis, only instill more fear and doubt in their people. Then there is the extreme opposite leader who paints a picture of the apocalypse.

A leader always has to define reality, which means admitting to the current environment. You cannot lead someone through something you’ve suggested is a mirage.

On the other hand, if you fall prey to the contagion of anxiety, your people will become quickly infected. Wishful thinking or paralyzing fear can both lead to catastrophic results.

The choice is not pie in the sky fanciful thinking, or the sky is falling. Instead, contextualize the fear appropriately and focus on lifting them up and carrying them through.


Visibility must be noticeable. (V)

When bombs would decimate areas of London, and Churchill was nearby, he would go out and stand on top of the rubble to let everyone know that we’re still here and not giving up short of winning.

As much as you might like, this is not the time to hibernate and contemplate.

Your people need to see you and feel you more than ever.

That may mean virtually or by phone and texting, but you have to be the reassuring forward face and a friendly smile.

This may take up more time than usual, but this investment is worth the effort.

It is a burden when everyone seems to be looking at you to provide long-lasting strength and safety, but it is one that you can carry if you stay visible, grounded, and hopeful.


Exude hope and confidence. (E)

I’ve been through two hurricanes, Andrew and Charlie, and both were devastating.

How could one have hope in the midst of what seemed cataclysmic, but for all the bad publicity of looters and the like, there were ten times as many people showing servant leadership through love and support.

They brought hope, that emotion that can move mountains, rather than the fear of an avalanche.

Many people are making all kinds of forecasts about the future, even while having limited knowledge.

The truth is we don’t know exactly how this will end, but we do have the confidence to overcome struggles in the past. Hope and confidence are proactive; they don’t sit idle waiting for the situation to improve.

Your people don’t expect you to have a crystal ball of the future, but they do expect you to display the confidence that they’ll get there.

If they see you reaching and planning for the future, they will borrow that energy to ride alongside you. When this is over, they’ll remember how you helped them more than how they got there.


Clarity on the why. (C)

There is the necessary clarity that must come from you to help them focus on what is happening and what is potentially likely to happen, but not on every possibility that could happen.

The more important clarity, however, needs to directed toward why you all do what you do.

Leaning into and modeling ‘the why’ will foster a sense that you will find and create new opportunities – new ‘what’s’ –to fulfill that why.

This clarity needs to come into focus to temper the fixation on the challenges, obstacles, and struggles.

The clarity of purpose and vision will keep them plugged into the future and diminish the strength of the current adversity.


Honesty never takes a back seat even in hard times. (H)

There is a crisis, you’ve admitted it, and now it’s time to be honest about how everyone will adapt and shift, possibly from day today.

There may be less to do, new things to do, different ways of doing things, but there is work, and productivity and effort are still expected.

The ‘right’ activities may have changed, the way you do them may have changed, but there is still honest accountability of being productive and not just busy.

Honesty also relates to documenting the areas of deficiency that are showing up in you as a leader.

Are you resistant to change, not communicating well, not delegating enough, not decisive with actions, and so on?

Now may not be the time to address these concerns entirely, but it is certainly the time to take note so that you can address them in the future.


Accept change. (A)

The only thing consistent in a leader’s life, in your life, whether you lead others or are a solopreneur, is change.

Things are always shifting, moving, and transitioning.

The fact is today’s best will not meet challenges tomorrow.

Many companies, schools, and households are in an upheaval. One example is the massive shift to the virtual world for online meetings and classes.

Some of these changes may be permanent. Supply chains, logistics, operations, hiring, marketing – much of it has changed – and it may stay that way.

That may mean shifting roles, learning new skills, creating new positions, and eliminating others, adapting to new environments, and so much more.

That invariably translates into more effort and perhaps even more costs with training. These dynamics have to be embraced enthusiastically.

Do not focus on the penalties of failure at the expense of the rewards of successfully navigating through these changes.

And most importantly, for the future, don’t rest at being the best, but rather always be getting better.


Mentor others and seek out mentors. (M)

This is a great time to call on people who have more experience than you, especially during a time of crisis.

If you are surrounded by an inner circle of like-minded people, the uniformity of perspective may protect, rather than expose your blind spots.

Mentors that have strengths in areas you’re feeling challenged in or in new areas you may be exploring to enter.

For example, someone that can help you with your mindset has better marketing or sales skills, or a person you highly respect for their critical thinking. In turn, you probably have more time to pay this forward for others.

Mentoring is something you should always seek; there are still things to learn, refine, and explore.

Mentoring keeps you sharp, enhances your growth, keeps you accountable, and will set you apart at a time when you most need it.


Performance remains consistent. (P)

Yes, things are rough, very rough.

You or your client may be in an industry where there is no money coming in. It’s worse than flat because you still have expenses, but the consistency of doing is the lifeblood of an organization.

What are the consistent daily efforts that you desire from yourself and your people?

Without question, some may lead nowhere. Many may fail to bear fruit.

Do you think Michael Jordan, who made slightly under half his shots or Derek Jeter, one of the most consistent baseball players of all time with a batting average of .310, would have a sympathetic ear?

You may be limited in what you can do, but there are likely many things you can.

Things you have put off, ideas you’ve shelved, protocols that badly needed streamlining, and I am sure much more.

Do consistent, productive things daily, which will bear fruition when the rebound comes.


Imagine the possibilities. (I)

So many swimmers would dance, sing or even yell to try and intimidate Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympic athlete of all time.

Those were fool’s errands; they were focused on themselves rather than winning. Phelps was zeroed in on the swim.

He envisioned the entire race from start to finish, from the dive to the winner’s podium. He had a vision for the present and the future, and you need to as well, expressing it now more than ever.

But you also have to admit that perhaps the vision has to change, and for that, you need to think differently. What are other services or products you can offer?

What new or changing demand in the market can you meet?

What are the possibilities and new opportunities?

You and the team have to think into these, for now, is the time to reinvent and innovate.


Own your Mindset. (O)

After thirty years in high-level roles, nothing is more important in determining your level of success, and your ability to shift and adapt to challenges, than what’s between your ears.

Your mindset has to be nurtured daily to a growth-oriented mindset.

You can learn all the business, financial, marketing, and sales skills the world has to offer, have all the latest gadgets and technology, have the best products and services.

Still, when crisis strikes, your most valuable resource, if it’s been cultivated, is your mindset.

Our mindset is strengthened through growth, by deliberately placing ourselves in challenging and difficult situations so that we have to stretch and feel some discomfort beyond our comfort zone.

Your mindset is the computer of your brain through which everything is filtered, forming your beliefs, directing your actions, and directly responsible for your results. Own your mindset, or it’ll own you!


Nurture the Brave Champion. (N)

Whether it’s exuding hope, having clarity, accepting change, owning your mindset, or any of the other components of a Brave Champion, they all have to be nurtured just like a beautiful garden.

The garden needs to planted, fertilized, and watered. The flowers need to be pruned, and the weeds picked.

Whatever it is you want to be and do and have and give to others has to be nurtured and always attended to, so that they become part of your mindset and ingrained habits.

If you do these things when things are right, it’ll be so much easier to tap into them when things are tough.

A Brave Champion is the person that quenches the fear, keeps it at bay, paints a better vision for the future, and provides hope as a solid anchor.

These are the things that I have tried to do over the years to maintain a champion’s perspective and have found them invaluable during the hardest times.

They are easy to ignore when you’re on top because success infuses all of the energy, excitement, momentum, and motivation that you need at the moment, but they are priceless in times of crisis.

The key is to pay attention to them when things are good so that you are continually depositing energy into the well of the ‘brave champion,’ and when things are bad, you draw from that well to feed yourself and your team. 

It’s not a magic pill. It’s not a panacea.

It doesn’t replace essential business strategic planning and operations, but it does make it a lot more likely you can withstand the storms that inevitably come.

How to be the Brave Champion that Leads Through a Crisis By John L Howard MD

 About John L Howard, MD

John’s daughter refers to him as a renaissance man. He practiced as an Interventional Radiologist for nearly 20-years enjoying his craft and caring for patients. After retiring from medicine for health reasons, he became an experienced and successful business owner, real estate investor, certified coach and consultant in business and healthcare, chief operating and chief medical officer of multisite pain management and physical therapy practice, and adviser and mentor to numerous people and companies. John, with his associates, offers coaching and online training in mindset mastery, leadership development, and a variety of other courses at

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