“A good leader takes a little more than their share of the blame, and a little less than their share of the credit.”
When the good times roll, it’s easy to look to the future and make plans in business and life – because everything in the here and now is running so smoothly.
But what happens when you fall into a sea of uncertainty, with the strong currents of doubt pulling you in every direction, while the crashing waves of “what ifs” prevent you from coming up to take a breath?
In today’s blog, we’re looking at how leaders take charge and help navigate their team through troublesome times.
During times of uncertainty, like right now during what is the worst global pandemic in recent history, it’s easy to succumb to fear and to get stuck in that mode. As a leader though, you can’t afford yourself the luxury of staying in that space too long – there’s work to do, you have people to lead, and you owe it to them to tap into the best version of yourself and rise to the occasion.
Trying times are when good leaders act strategically, instead of impulsively. Trying times are when the best leaders roll up their sleeves and lead from the front, by example, and do away with the “do as I say” and embrace the “do as I do” mentality. Where rigidity makes way for flexibility, compassion replaces anger, and logic and reason are the drivers behind decisions – not impulse.
Here’s how to be a good leader in uncertain times.
10 – Lose the Title:
It’s important to take yourself down a notch and even the playing field a little. Communication is a funny thing, as a general rule people will more freely talk to their peers then to a figure of authority. By losing the title of boss, and something as simple as being on a first name basis with everyone within the company, suddenly the leader is one the same level as those around them. The knock-on effect is that when there is a crisis, that leader doesn’t miss out on any potentially game changing advice from an employee who would have been otherwise too afraid to offer it.
9 – Take Responsibility:
Nobody is perfect, but more importantly, nobody likes admitting when they’re wrong. Pride is a strong human emotion, where too little or too much of it can soon become a problem and blind a leader to the true nature of things. Just by being up front and explaining that they made a mistake, a leader creates a learning experience that everyone can move on from.
8 – Patience Is a Virtue:
A good leader is someone who realises that it’s all about the long game. That employee are people too, and have off days where something happening in their personal lives is affecting their work life. The key here is to have the patience required to allow that team member to work things out, but also have the flexibility to make small adjustments to accommodate changing needs, or to just offer support when it’s needed. Barking orders won’t work here.
7 – Take Ownership:
A leader makes sure the buck stops with them. Difficult times call for difficult decisions, and ones that are hard to make due to the fact that not all parties will be happy with the choice. Being across all the contributing factors, using a level head to rationally assess the issue, and then having the bravery and willpower to take the action required doesn’t have to be a nasty or malicious act – but it has to be something where there are no excuses or blame shifted to something else.
6 – Conversations Not Monologues:
By talking with someone, and not at someone, a good leader makes sure that communication is a two-way street and that they’re listening to the other party – taking on board what they’re saying. Employees are the most important resource in a business, and they’re hired to provide the expertise and advice needed for that business to prosper. It only makes sense to make them feel valued enough that they can freely contribute to discussions.
5 – Be Attentive:
Every employee is different, and what works for one person isn’t guaranteed to work for another. By listening and being attentive to how each employee performs under certain conditions, a good leader gets a feel for how to best manage that team member to maximise their productivity with no expense to their happiness and well-being.
4 – Knowledge Is Power:
Fostering a way for employees to freely share their knowledge, thoughts, and feelings during a time of crisis is one way to reduce the level of fear, and promote solutions-orientated thinking. A good leader will take the time to reach out to employees on a personal level, to step out of their office and get amongst the team to connect and communicate – and to foster a sense of solidarity within the team.
3 – Be Authentic:
Ego trips and actions driven by self-importance or self-servitude can be seen a mile off. Any action from a leader that reeks of disingenuity will have a further negative effect and erode a team’s trust during uncertain times. Disharmony and frustration are two things that breed uncontrollably when hard times befall a company, so a good leader has to ensure they’re authentic with their interactions with staff.
2 – Be Transparent:
People appreciate honesty, and want to be kept in the loop. There’s no use painting a picture of a perfect world, only to have people losing their jobs the following week. A leader has to be open about the problems and issues facing a team, and the potential negative impacts because only then can the work force be galvanised to all work together towards a solution.
1 – See People for Who They Are:
Once again, people aren’t robots. We come in all sorts of different flavours, and as such, a good leader has to recognise what their team member’s core values are to figure out how they will best serve the company as a whole. Instead of trying to fit the people under them into a specific mould or box, individuality has to be celebrated by finding out what inspires different people to succeed, and how best to recognise and acknowledge the value they bring to the team. A good leader is one that can work with an employee to solve a problem and relate to their point of view, and not just shoulder the burden themselves by micro-managing every member of the team.
The Big Take Away
There are a few key points here to take away, and that is that not every manager is a good leader, but every good leader is a good manager. A leader is someone who has solid systems and processes in place to allow their teams to achieve that long term goal or vision. These systems and processes fall by the wayside during a time of crisis, and it becomes more about leading well. It becomes more about taking care of the people, as you’ll need them to rebuild during the aftermath.
By acknowledging the elephant in the room, a good leader effectively shuts down the rumour mill. They engage the people regardless of whether they have answers or not, because they know by ignoring the problem you lose the trust and support of the workforce.
Good leaders address the here and now, but don’t become fixated on it. The focus has to be constantly shifted to what happens next, to what the solutions will be and how the company will be moving forward. They’re the ones who share updates as soon as they become available, because they know that the lack of vital knowledge will severely hamper the thinking required to execute a recovery.
One thing’s for sure – when this global pandemic is over, only the strong and well positioned companies will be left standing. These won’t be the businesses ruled by a dictator with an iron fist. These will be the companies who have a compassionate and thoughtful leader, who puts their employees first and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.
The kicker is that you don’t need a title to be a leader. Any employee can focus on these 10 points to function as a more effective member of the team, to listen more broadly, to embrace new ideas and improvisation, and to focus on core values and principles to chart the course for their behaviours and actions.
Leading during a time of uncertainty may seem outwardly different to leading during any other time but it’s not – it just tests the resolve of a good leader and how well they stick to the foundations that led to the support and trust of their team.
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