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How to Successfully Manage in a Crisis

How to Successfully Manage in a Crisis

Fabiana Lacerca-Allen breaks down the five key steps that leaders can follow to guide their teams through any challenge they face

Photo by Christopher C. Lee

We can all agree that we have experienced a very difficult last couple of years. Things outside of our control have negatively impacted people worldwide, global economies have continued to suffer, and we have experienced both profound loss and overwhelming fear. On the other hand, we have seen incredible scientific breakthroughs as well as amazing demonstrations of leadership, compassion, service, courage, and love.

Throughout it all, we have learned that we do not choose the timing or severity of the issues that inevitably come our way. But we can choose how we react to them. 

My own reactions to crises and challenges are shaped in part by the fact that I grew up in Argentina during the military dictatorship, and was raised in a family committed to democracy and other values not supported by the dictators. As a result, my family endured attempted kidnappings and many other rough experiences. But I also learned five key lessons about how to best navigate stressful situations, lessons that I have successfully applied throughout my career in compliance. 

1. Have a Plan

After one terrorist attack when I was six years old, I asked my father if we were going to die. I was hoping that he would tell me that nobody was going to die. Instead, he said, “We are all going to die, so don’t worry about it—worry about what you’re going to live for. There are some things worth dying for, and for everything else, you need a plan.” 

Although you cannot exhaustively plan for all possibilities, teams that have solid processes in place are able to adapt to countless new problems. Regardless of what the crisis is, the team knows how they will react. The planning process also helps teams build trust and better understand the roles and responsibilities that are required in crisis situations. That trust and understanding will help team members better recognize how to balance the team’s weaknesses, which may be more apparent during a crisis.  

2. Lead with Emotional Intelligence

A crucial part of being a strong leader is having the emotional intelligence to know and understand the group of people you are leading. Emotional intelligence is the ability to assess situations as they come and—using a combination of experience, training, and intuition—respond accordingly. A leader understands where the strengths and weaknesses of their team lie and then uses this knowledge to put the right people in the right places during a crisis. 

3. Have the Right People in the Right Places 

Different situations require different responses, but no matter the circumstances, having the right people in the right places is crucial for success. Having the “right people” means having people with high emotional intelligence, strong intuitive abilities, and strong leadership abilities. Since we often cannot anticipate the exact nature of a crisis, it’s essential to have leaders who can not only plan but also assess a situation and make quick, instinctive decisions. Those are the people that others will feel confident in following. 

Every time I am faced with difficult circumstances, I think to myself, “Who do I want around me? Who do I want to face this crisis with?” You have to have had that discussion with yourself a long time ago in order to have trained, trustworthy leaders in place by the time a crisis hits. 

4. Training Is Vital

Because of how I grew up, I place a very high value on training, building trust, and having open channels of communication. In times of crisis, training is particularly critical. If you are listening to your intuition, you will know when you are in trouble. But if you are correctly trained, you will also be alert and capable of assessing your environment—and therefore able to make the most appropriate decisions at the right times. 

5. Lead by Example

Strong leaders learn from their mistakes, but they also learn from every single situation they are in. It’s all part of the experience. After this pandemic, for example, every human being will have learned how to live in a different reality—how to study differently, travel differently, and work differently. 

Great leaders will take an additional lesson from this pandemic. They will have learned that they should move forward in a way that minimizes regret and finger pointing and maximizes positive action. This is crucial. People are constantly observing leaders to see how they react and how they treat their people (people follow what leaders do far more closely than what leaders say). If you are able to stay calm in a crisis and do the right thing consistently, others will follow your example.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Hispanic Executive or Guerrero Media.


With over twenty-eight years of experience in compliance and legal roles, Fabiana Lacerca-Allen is a leader in developing and implementing global compliance programs within Fortune 100 companies. She has extensive experience delineating compliance strategy, leading global teams, and negotiating, implementing, and executing on corporate integrity agreements, deferred prosecution agreements, and consent decrees.

Lacerca-Allen currently serves as a board member at Shield Therapeutics and the Center of Excellence in Life and has previously served as a board member at First Tee of East Bay and Arthrocare Medical Corporation. She has been recognized by Compliance Week as one of their Top Minds of 2019, by Hispanic Executive as legal industry leader, and by the Guardian in their Women in Leadership: Inspiring Leaders list, among other recognitions.

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