Leading Through Turbulence
It’s easy to be a good leader when things are calm, employees are competent, customers are polite and the economy is thriving. Unfortunately, that’s not where we are right now. It seems as if every day we read about another company that is declaring bankruptcy or laying off workers. Customers are hording their money and leaders are trying to figure out what strategy to implement next to generate revenue. Truly great leaders emerge when situations become chaotic, employees are frustrated and/or demoralized and confusion is the norm.There are a few things that great leaders do that are fairly consistent.
1.They communicate often and in a variety of ways. When chaos strikes, people want to know what is going on and they want to know immediately. Not next month or next week. Good leaders know how to put together clear messages and deliver the messages quickly. They also repeat the messages often.
2.They are hopeful. Great leaders have hope and they let others know that they have hope. Hope for the future, hope for turning the company around and hope for a better tomorrow. On Sept. 11, 2001 NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani consistently spoke of a rescue operation. The press was trying to get him to divulge the number of dead after the towers were hit, he never even guessed at a number, he just kept repeating that there was a rescue operation in progress. He had hope.
3.They encourage input from others. Great leaders have and need competent advisors. They ask the right questions and carefully listen to and analyze the information they are given. There is no such thing as a great leader that acted alone. Great leaders have support.
4.They allow people to grieve. When a change occurs, something ends. A new beginning always comes after an ending. Sometimes people need to be able to grieve and say goodbye. For example, when an admired employee loses his or her job, the remaining employees might want the opportunity to say goodbye.
5.They learn from their mistakes. It is a leader’s job to take risks. Sometimes when a leader takes a risk, he/she makes a mistake. It happens. Great leaders admit their mistakes quickly, learn from them and move on.
6.They take the blame.When Hurricane Katrina hit the United States in 2005 and devastated New Orleans, everyone was blaming everyone else for the inadequate warning, the failure of the levy system and the slow government response to help the victims. Federal, State and local authorities were pointing fingers at each other for days. The head of FEMA, Michael Brown was blaming everyone but himself. It became crystal clear very quickly that the ‘leaders’ were not doing a very effective job of leading. Great leaders admit when they are wrong and they move on.
7.They stretch people. During turbulent times, great leaders expect a lot from their staff. They make sure that they have the right people in the right jobs at the right time. They cannot afford to have difficult, whining, doubtful managers. They must have superstars working for them and helping them move the organization forward.
8.They work hard. Leading an organization takes passion, commitment, time and energy. Leadership is hard work. That’s why so many people are not good at it. They are not willing to deal with the blood, sweat and tears.
9.They make the tough decisions. There are times leaders place the best interest of the organization above personal or employees’ interests. Nobody likes to reduce headcount and put good employees on the unemployment line. Sometimes it has to be done, there is no other choice.