How to Lead During a Crisis

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the United States, no one yet knows the final toll to individuals and businesses in the affected areas of Texas and Louisiana.

During a crisis like this one, leaders can learn from someone else who has had to guide people through a stormy period. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy—until now the second costliest hurricane in United States history—left one such leader in a state of despair. FreshDirect, an online grocer that delivers to residences and offices in the New York metropolitan area, had no way to deliver groceries. All 160 trucks were too damaged to drive. 

If I have no trucks, I have no revenue.
— Jason Ackerman, Co-Founder and CEO of FreshDirect

It seemed as though they were out of business. There would be no way to pay their 2,500 employees. The enormity of the problem hit Co-Founder and CEO Jason Ackerman like a ton of bricks. Watch Inc.'s four-minute video to see how one watershed moment led to a pivotal point of change.

To recap, Ackerman led through the storm by:

  1. Losing heart, a natural reaction to a potentially catastrophic challenge.
  2. Listening to the Human Resources person who served as a Lifter to the organization at a pivotal point in the crisis.
  3. Gathering himself and changing his mindset from one of defeat to one of resilience.
  4. Changing the team’s mindset to believing that together they would make it to the other side.  
  5. Empowering the team to figure out and to solve the one main problem.
  6. Together, celebrating each small success.

Crises come in many forms. None of us are immune to adversity. There is hope. FreshDirect weathered the storm and recovered. In 2016, FreshDirect's revenue was up nearly 100% since Hurricane Sandy.