Will the Real Leader Please Stand Up: Values Leading in Crisis

  • Published: Sunday, June 14, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – “To Tell the Truth” was a popular television show in the 1950 and 1960s (and one that has been revived recently). At the end of that show, where three guests were asked questions about themselves, the host would ask for the real mystery person to stand up.

Just like in the television show, a crisis demands that the real leader stands up according to David Burton, county engagement and community development specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“A crisis will separate the pretenders from the players. It always does. A crisis will reveal who we are as a person. A crisis will move us. Either positive or negative. A crisis will test a leader's confidence,” said Burton.

This constant change requires leader shifting, or adapting to the current situation.

“Research shows that crisis leaders do several things well. You do not motivate through a crisis you lead through it. Crisis leaders understand context,” said Burton.

Burton also notes that if you do not know where you are going any road will take you there. This is why crisis leaders embrace good values. 

Respected national pollster George Barna did a poll shortly after the first of the year to determine what are the current values of Americans. This is the list from his poll: Acceptance, Comfort, Expression, Happiness, Control, Entertainment, Entitlement, Experience, Freedom and Happiness.

“Many of these values are self-focused. That is concerning and important to note,” said Burton.

John C. Maxwell teaches a program on values in his transformational leaders program. The values he teaches in that program are very different: Attitude, Courage, Kindness, Teamwork, Self regulation, Commitment, Integrity, Perseverance, Responsibility, Humility and Hope.

Which set of values do you think are better suited to see us through a crisis?

Which set of values would you want a leader to abide by if he was going to lead you?

“Any time there is a crisis, it is an opportunity for the real leaders to stand up,” said Burton. “But if change is going to be positive and long-term, research and experience has shown us that they need to stand on values that are transformational.”


Community development specialists with MU Extension help people create communities of the future by tapping into local strengths and university resources. The Community Development Program works collaboratively with communities to foster economic development, leadership development, community decision making, community emergency preparedness and inclusive communities.

For more information, contact any of these MU Extension community development specialists working in southwest Missouri:  Pam Duitsman in Christian County, (417) 581-3558; David Burton in Greene County, (417) 881-8909 or Maria E. Rodriguez-Alcalá in Jasper County at (417) 358-2158




Writer: David Burton

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