In this first article on the topic, I’d like to introduce you to my concept of leadership, summarised in one word: SMARTER. This is particularly the case for leading in tough times.
Leading in tough times is a subject I’m very passionate about because it teaches you not only about leadership in business, but about human behaviours, team dynamics, and general life lessons. We know that it is a school in tenacity. But I have long since held that you only develop true professional / leadership experience, when you have had to work on difficult businesses within challenging environments. So for me, most interesting is that the struggles accompanying tough times, only make you SMARTER.
Let me give you my interpretation of the word, by dissecting it first.
Respected & Ready for your next challenge
1. S: SINCERE. you need to be you, but a better you. If, for example, you are normally aggressive you may need to adapt your behaviour a bit but without going over the top and risk appearing inauthentic.
2. M: MOTIVATED. you need to stay motivated, otherwise your team certainly won’t be. Regular communication is necessary – lack of transparency deepens fear, cripples productivity and leads to uncertainty and whilst it wouldn’t be bad if the weak players leave, your best people may start to look outside for another job.
3. A: ARTISTIC. Innovation can enhance a company’s competitive advantage or help them to create one. In tough times, the only solution might be a new innovative business solution or model.
4. R: RESILIENT. Put things in perspective to foster resilience (ask the question; what’s the worst that could happen? And plan for each of those eventualities). When you have negative results month on month and have to answer to the board and to shareholders, it can take its toll on you. But you need to learn self-control. The team needs a calm leader particularly in tough times – the opposite will only result in more chaos.
5. T: TOUGHER. (But when all is said and done) Be firm in your decision making. Direction is needed above all.
6. E: EMPATHY. Some displays of empathy will go a long way in boosting the morale of the team. Emotional intelligence can often be underrated in the corporate world, but it shouldn’t be. Where morale is low, so is performance.
7. R: RESPECTED & READY for your next challenge. During tough times leaders need to roll up their sleeves to lead by example. Simply, be responsible as well as accountable.
If you do some of these things and are able to get the best possible results, especially given the circumstances, it puts you at the ready position for a promotion within an organisation, man or woman, or the confidence to push yourself to the next level as a business owner.
Every assignment I’ve had has positioned me to lead under tough circumstances, and these basic things I’ve mentioned have been what I have practiced. At the end of each breakthrough, I was given a tougher, more challenging and bigger assignment. I have risen pretty fast in my career, I believe mainly because of this.
In short, leading in tough times, for me, is to be smarter. In future articles, I will start to share some experiences in this area to further illustrate the points, going through the seven keys or behaviours, from being sincere to becoming respected.