Creative Leadership

Leaders: How A Crisis Can Build Your Career

Whether you’re intentionally looking for it or not, a crisis could build your career. Time and time again, leaders have experienced breakthroughs in their career because of the willingness to personally step up during a time of crisis. Sometimes it’s direct, as when there’s no one else willing or able to take command of a situation, and other times it happens when someone responds above and beyond.

In my own career, I was a freelance producer and director in Los Angeles when 9/11 happened. The afternoon of the event, I realized that while the country was rightly transfixed on the horrific event and secular news organizations were covering it 24/7, Christian media was virtually ignoring it. In many cases, the problem came from the fact that Christian programming is well scheduled in advance and few Christian TV or radio stations have qualified people or facilities to break into regularly scheduled programming with a live report.

But they should have. So I quickly sent out an email or fax to Christian radio and TV station managers across the country. It was a detailed memo not only strongly encouraging them to break into their programming, but I also gave them a list of what to do and how to do it.

The response was immediate. My phone lit up from stations across the country that were using my guidelines in production meetings, calling in local terrorism experts, Islamic scholars, as well as ministry leaders, and going live in response to the tragedy. As a result, significant numbers of Christian TV and radio stations supplied a spiritual voice to millions of listeners and viewers in the media conversation during the weeks and months following 9/11.

While it wasn’t the motivation for my actions, that memo essentially put me on the map. Christian media outlets, churches, and ministries suddenly wanted my advice on other media issues as well – so much that we needed to grow in response. That’s the point where I went from a solo act to a team of media professionals.

The lesson? If you have the creative ideas, the willingness to take a risk, and the confidence as a leader, responding well to a crisis can have a powerful impact on your career.

It doesn’t mean we should start looking under every rock for a crisis, or using tragic events for self promotion. But it does mean that when a crisis happens in your organization or career, that’s not the time to hide. Step up and be counted.

Your moment may have arrived.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this! I’m curious, did you already have a relationship with the station managers? What type? If not, how did you gain their confidence that you knew what you were talking about?

    1. Great question Dawn. I had been a member of the National Religious Broadcasters – which is a trade organization for Christian radio and TV stations, and had taught at those events for a number of years. So it’s another good reason to be involved in organizations in your area of expertise, because it helps build credibility.

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