It’s easy to be a leader when things are going right. In fact, it can be downright awesome—especially if your team members are fully engaged, communicating well with each other, and taking responsibility and accountability for their respective roles.
But when your team is faced with serious conflict, wherever that comes from, you need effective leadership skills to hold them all together as a unit. So what leadership skills are required when your team is running into tough times? Here are seven you can call upon.
Grit: Grit is defined as courage, resolve, and strength of character, but the final blend of those characteristics yield a quality that is perhaps best summarized by one word: toughness. Good leaders hold the team together in tough times by staying committed to the vision, purpose and values of the team and the organization.
Grit can also be looked at as ‘tough love with discipline.’ We don’t often use the word ‘love’ in the workplace, but when we strip everything away strong leaders care about their team and deal with each member with compassion and concern. That is an expression of love. leaders want to hold their team relationships intact, so they work hard at a) trying to understand what is going on within their team, and b) fix what appears to be broken or weakened and a way to do this is with tough love coupled with personal discipline.
Positive Optimism: Grit is mostly present-filled while optimism is future oriented. An optimistic leader who has a positive view of the outcome is creating a mental construct for the team to pull through, because they foster the belief that something great is on the other side of the chaos.
Leaders who are positively and optimistically looking ahead and guiding their teams to a new or better outcome do so with hope. Think of Martin Luther King who continued to beat the drum of hope in his famous Dream speech. He painted a picture of a new awakening in America and leading people to a newfound freedom based on the human dignity of each individual.
Strong leaders are optimistic, hopeful and act with positivity.
Realistic Pragmatism: While leaders need to be gritty and optimistic, they also need to be practical. This means that leaders ought to keep hope and optimism tethered to the ground. How do they do this? Simply by using their head – using their intelligence coupled with sound judgement and their experience to navigate their way through the given circumstance.
This is not a time to fall prey to Pollyannaism or put on rose colored glasses. To look at the future with rosy Pollyannaism while dealing with the present can lead to unnecessary and costly mistakes.
Now we know that leaders can correct mistakes, but not being real and not using a pragmatic approach can do more harm to a team’s psyche by unleashing a cynicism, distrustfulness, and incredulity. These psychological factors are much more difficult to eradicate than fixing material and quantifiable mistakes.
Selfless Actions: Selflessness is all about caring more about other peoples needs and interests over one’s own. Good leaders don’t try to save their own skin first, they serve others first. This doesn’t mean they don’t look after their own interests. They do so with their team members interest in mind first.
Good leaders keep their ego in check, act with humility, yet with a confident attitude. Robin Sharma once said, “Leave your ego at the door every morning, and just do some truly great work. Few things will make you feel better than a job brilliantly done.” And for leaders dealing with difficult issues within their team they need to work brilliantly without an overbearing ego.
Encouragement: There are two approaches to developing encouragement. A good leader encourages both self and the team.
Sometimes a leader needs to encourage his own psyche to be up for the challenge of developing team effort. A Leader can and does have feelings of anger, frustration, and disappointment when things are not going right. This is when leaders encourage themselves with positive affirmations or seek help from a mentor or coach.
Then there is the time when leaders need to help the team find the drive to make it through the rough spots. In this situation the leader focuses on the team’s strong points in order to uplift motivation and performance levels. Here the leader’s work is all about bringing the best out of their team members. In essence the leader is showing that each member is valued and cared for. Sometimes encouragement can be as simple as wandering around the group, patting some backs, and giving smiles or saying friendly words. Here the word, ‘kindness’ comes to mind. Encouragement is often expressed through simple acts of kindness and good leaders find ways to express kindness often as they know it is a motivational force.
Preparedness: A good leader never finds their team unexpectedly thrust into bad times without some prior preparation. A good leader has a plan to cover all the possibilities and knows what to do if things don’t go exactly the way they were hoping.
Now preparation doesn’t automatically guarantee success, but the lack of preparedness can certainly increase the likelihood of mistakes or downright team process failure. The trick that leader’s face is to prepare for potential team breakdown while still staying relevant with the present. Dealing with daily realities often make it difficult to focus on what might go wrong, but spending some time strategizing about the possibilities make the seemingly impossible, probable.
Being prepared also means that the leader needs to keep current with leadership techniques. This includes reading about leadership, taking leadership courses and honing leadership skills. The quickest way to get stuck in the past is not to continue to learn and refresh leadership skills. When leaders take continuous learning as one of their habits gain they valuable insights into their own behaviour and the way it affects others as well as how to encourage growth within their team.
Acute Listening: During rough spots team leaders need to acutely listen to their team members. The leader should have two listening antennas up. One to listen to what people are actually saying and the other to listen to what they are not saying. And it is the latter where the leader must pay particular attention.
Often behind what is not being said lurks elements of fear. Fear about the changes that are taking place, job security or dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty about their role or responsibilities.
A danger point for the leader is to make assumptions about what is not being said without checking for understanding through paraphrasing and feedback techniques. Another danger for them is to lead with too much talking. A leader who always talks isn’t listening and when the leader is not listening vital information is missed. As Peter Drucker said, “Listening (the first competence of leadership) is not a skill, it is a discipline. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut.”
As always, stay safe, be well, and become your best self.
Thanks for reading,
PS. Learn to Become A Leader – Find the leader within you.