10 Essentials for Leading Well in Tough Times

By Dr. Fred Johnson of Initiative One Leadership Institute 

  1. Trust Your History – Many companies made it through the financial aftermath of the “Great Recession”. It required resilience, staying power, solution thinking and an abiding self-belief that “we are going to endure this”. If you and your company have weathered storms in the past, trust that you will weather the days ahead.


  1. Treat Your Team Like Adults – In uncertain times, some owners try to protect their employees emotional state by withholding, manipulating or downplaying information. The number one complaint of employees following the “Great Recession” was broken trust. Because they knew owners were not leveling with them during the crisis. When the sand under our feet is constantly shifting, our team needs to know what’s real so they can prepare and adjust.


  1. Scan the Horizon – Boat captains will nervous passengers to not focus on the waves in front of them to avoid seasickness, instead look out into the distance and it will settle the mind. There are waves coming at us right now but remember, this storm will end.


  1. Practice a 100% Responsibility Mindset – Victim thinking obsesses on how big the obstacles are. Rather than giving power to the barriers, give your power to the solutions. A powerful way to overcome the helpless feeling is to create a plan and figure out your options. Action is opposite of fear and that in turn fosters courage.


  1. Focus on What You Can Control and Give it All You Got – Worrying over things that are out of your control is a worthless exercise that misuses energy and creative thinking. You can have a lot more control than you think over yourself, your choices, and your mental attitude.


  1. Don’t Play Superman – Ten minds are better than one. Share your challenges with your team. Ask them for help with solutions. If difficult decisions need to be made, they will own them if they participate in the process. They will feel trusted, empowered and engaged which will provide momentum after the storm.


  1. Choose to be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable – Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen? Can I survive that? Can I be happy even in those circumstances? I will create my own happiness that is not dependent on external circumstances beyond my control. You might not like all the outcomes that come from this, but you need to embrace them.


  1. Choose to Stay Calm, Resolute and Believe in Yourself – It is easy to lead when things are going great. The true test of effective leadership is when the chips are down. Your team needs you to be even, transparent and comforting. Your best bet during this time is you. Your self-belief is your most potent tool.


  1. Catch the Knuckleball – Like a catcher who knows the ball is coming but isn’t sure where it will land, expect the unexpected. Anticipate surprises. Remind yourself you have dealt with tough circumstances before and came through it just fine.


  1. Face the Fear Head On – The most effective way to address fear is to admit is to admit it to yourself and to others. There is no weakness in being afraid. If viewed effectively, fear can inform us. But you must choose not to be dominated by it.



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