Leadership in Tough Times
5 Jun 2012
So you want to be a leader?
It is obvious that it is harder to be a leader in a tough economic climate and a more competitive market.
As a leader you cannot change the economy but you can change your position in the market.
The thing is that in tough times you have less room for maneuver and less margin for error.
We are seeing the results of that in Managing Partners and Chief Executives in the legal market being perceived as failing.
If we were in 2006 they would get away with it. In 2012 they will not.
In difficult times good leaders must:
✦ Show 3 key qualities
✦ Have 5 ingredients
✦ Take 2 kinds of action
Qualities of Leadership – the 3 Cs
Leaders have to make difficult decisions. They have to have the courage to decide and to see it through. They have to face the people affected and give them the news. The ability to give bad news to the face of the person affected is something which great leaders do not enjoy but can and will do.
Good leaders deal with people in a way which gets the job done but causes as little collateral damage as possible. They need to be seen to care and to behave with compassion while taking the difficult decisions.
A good leader is connected to the business and the people in it. They understand what makes both tick. They have empathy. They take decisions for the good of the business and its people collectively and behave in ways which fit with its culture and values.
The Ingredients of a Leader – VVFEH
A leader needs vision. They need to have a destination towards which they are taking the business and its people. Without vision a leader can look very much like a manager. People need something to get around, an idea, a sense of purpose.
The leader must have values and those values must fit with the values of the business. If the leader does not live the values no one else will.
While vision is important the leader also has to create focus, a sense of purpose. People need to know what is expected of them and to understand why they are doing what they are doing. Focus enables momentum which leads to achievements which inspire people.
Leadership is hard work. Leaders need energy and to be able to energise others.
The best leaders are not arrogant. They are not bullies. They do not know all the answers and are clever enough to know they do not need to. They are open about their weaknesses and mistakes. Their humanity inspires those around them. They are secure enough to hire people who they perceive as being as good or better than them.
Take Action – 2 more Cs
The qualities and ingredients can be lost if they are not communicated. The leader must let people know who they are, what they believe in and what they are doing. They need to do so relentlessly and repetitively. You cannot communicate too much.
Check the mirrors
Make sure your people are actually following as you charge up the hill.
The leader looks very silly if they charge ahead and leave everyone else behind. This is a common problem and can be fatal. Leaders cannot set a great example and then just assume the rest will follow. This is a good way to verify if you have communicated well.
If you show the qualities, have the ingredients and take the actions it is not guaranteed that your people will like you.
Leaders have to take unpopular steps and have the strength to do so.
What will happen is that your people will respect you. They will follow you. That is what you need.
Liking you is optional.
Fearing you is not good.
Respect is the goal.
Leadership is hard at the best of times. At the moment it is super hard.
Good leaders will shine. It will be harder for the rest.