It’s easy for leaders when things are running smoothly. It can be fun, rewarding and downright amazing. In these situations the leader is rewarded handsomely and everyone – well almost everyone – appears content.
But what happens when the leader is under fire, when things don’t seem to be going right and what was once seen as the ‘good times’ turn to the ‘bad times.’ This is when a leader needs some serious leadership skills to hold it all together. Skills like:
1. Grit: Grit is defined as courage, determination, and strength of character, but the final blend of those characteristics yield a quality that’s perhaps best summarized by one word: toughness. Good leaders hold the team together in tough times by staying committed and focused. But, they also know how to bend, to be flexible, and to change what needs to change to meet new contingencies.
2. Optimism: While grit mainly relates to the present, optimism is a component of leadership that looks to the future. A leader who has a positive view of the outcome is creating a mental framework for the team to pull through, because they foster the belief that something great is on the other side. Their sense of optimism about what is to come brings the team forward.
3. Pragmatism: While a leader needs grit and optimism, they also need to be practical, using intelligence and common sense to navigate their way through the given situation. Having rose colored glasses for the future is one thing but having them on as you look at the present can lead to costly mistakes.
4. Selflessness: When things go sour some leaders will try to save their own skin. This is not good as people see through the manipulative moves. The leader that is worth following does whatever is necessary to take corrective action without regard to self. Such a leader is more concerned with how to save the team and finds ways to resolve situations with the least amount of harm to the team and individuals within the team.
5. Resolution: Tough times beget rough times. During tough times people often begin to gripe, become unsettled, grumble, complain and thwart efforts to make things right. This tests the leader’s mettle. Here the leader must become resolute and even show ‘tough love’ towards those who are dragging the team down. This is not always easy but in the long run team members will be grateful.
6. Encouragement: A good leader encourages the team during a tough time to help them find the drive to make it through. Sometimes encouragement can be as simple as wandering around the group, patting some backs, and giving smiles or friendly words. This is the time for the leader to put into practice “seeing is believing” – if team members can experience encouragement then their mood is lightened and their mindset shifts from “can’t do” to “can do”.
7. Preparedness: A good leader never finds their team unexpectedly thrust into bad times without some prior preparation. A good leader understands risks and develops a plan to cover as many contingencies as possible and takes corrective action when things don’t go exactly the way they were hoping.
8. Courage: Fear can undermine the entire mission, whether it is on the battlefield, a sporting field, or the sales floor. A good leader has courage and inspires his team to weather the storm. A good leader faces fear and helps others to face theirs so that they can overcome the tough situation.
Tough situations can occur at any time within business. It could come about because of an economic downturn, unrest due to a merger, shifting organizational priorities, organizational re-design and so on. These are times when the leader must step up and call upon the skill sets outlined in this article. It is a tall order but as I said at the beginning when things are running smoothly the leader’s role is easy, but when things turn difficult the leader must step through the barriers and provide the leadership that the teams needs to survive and thrive.
Thank you for reading, and as always become the best you can be. Stay safe and keep well.