Executive Recruitment | Belfast | Northern Ireland

Being a Leader in tough times

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

In times of stability leadership is more about ‘holding the fort’, or ‘keeping the ship steady’. However, in times of economic or societal crisis, leadership becomes more about having the vision, the courage and the conviction to create turning points for change and progress.

Harry S Truman said, “Men and women make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better”.

The challenge of the current financial and economic crisis that dragged us into recession is seriously impacting on the global economy. Right now, almost every country needs a whole new generation of leaders at all levels and in all walks of life.

Undoubtedly there are huge talent pools of potential leaders amongst us. If we don’t encourage them to grow, we do them and ourselves a serious injustice. Harold Geneen said, “Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned.” So, how do you nurture the values, traits and skills in yourself, to become a leader in whatever job you do?

The seven steps to being a leader, explained below, give you an insight into how to develop your leadership ability. These are not easy things to do, but no great leaders ever emerged on the back of an easy life!

1. Build the right values. Start with your inner self and the fundamental values you should nurture to build a strong foundation for leadership. Be open, honest, true to yourself and show high levels of integrity. Be trusting of all those you meet and trustworthy in all that you do. Show respect for all, embrace diversity and uphold equality. Strive to serve others and to work hard.

2. Get the right attitude. Use those same values to develop an attitude to life and work to support your leadership development. Believe in yourself, be highly motivated, and be confident and committed. Maintain high levels of energy and effort. Nurture the desire to learn and grow. Be responsible and accountable, professionally, socially and environmentally. Be passionate and driven.

3. Keep learning, developing and improving. A good leader will always be seeking to learn, develop and improve themselves, the people around them, and their performance. To do this be self‐aware and keep an open mind and strong spirit. Learn from your experience and focus on growth, not failure. Take time out to be creative, innovative and imaginative. Solve problems with understanding, insight and initiative. Stay focused on improvement and achievement.

4. Build great relationships. Try to recognise opportunities to practise your leadership ability, in team situations. Relationships are built on trust. If your team trusts you to lead them, you can. Remember to always lead by example, but you don’t always need to lead from the front. Be caring, compassionate, supportive and tolerant. Be a team player and a team builder. Consult and involves others, seeking and valuing ideas and opinions. Know your team talents and harness diversity as a strength. Collaborate with others and work through partnerships.

5. Share your vision for change. Leadership can also be about having a higher sense of purpose and bringing people to a better place. Understand the people and the world around you, and care strongly enough to make a difference. Always seek to develop new insights. Think broadly, plan long term and act inclusively. Define, clarify and share your vision. Negotiate fairly and be ethical and moral in influencing others. This, along with the steps you have followed so far, will give you the power and the passion to lead, and will attract the hearts of others, who will follow.

6. Be adaptable and resilient. Being a leader is tough, mentally and physically. If you are prepared to lead, you must be able to endure. Build the resilience and the adaptability to cope with challenging people and situations. Learn to anticipate, respond to and facilitate change. Seek new business directions, opportunities and challenges. Strive to be emotionally balanced and manage your stress effectively.

7. Get the job done and get results. In addition to all of the steps so far, leadership is also about getting results through people. Focus on long term sustainability, including energy and resource efficiency. Quickly resolve any conflict, restore balance, and focus on achievement, improvement and growth. Make sure your people, structure, and processes are aligned to support performance excellence. Ensure strategy and plans continuously evolve.

Lastly, have a think about the story of ‘The Chicken and the Eagle’. One day, an eagle egg falls from the nest and rolls down the hill into a chicken pen. The egg hatches and the bird grows up along with all the other chickens. The chickens can never break out of the pen and life is boring and repetitive. One day the eagle looks up at the sky and sees two eagles soaring high above the hills. The eagle thinks, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if I could soar in the skies like those birds!”

All the eagle has to do is try its wings and it will fly. If it never tries, it will never know that it could fly and will continue to live it’s mundane and repetitive existence, just like all the other chickens.

You can write your own ending to this story. Our advice is to try your wings and soar like an eagle!

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