Topic of the Week Leadership Strategies: Leading in Tough Times
- Future focused.
These are tough times to be a leader. The ability to pull people together so they can focus on a common goal is challenging in the best of times and few would argue that the post recession workplace full of dispirited and overwhelmed people is anything but. Trying to get a team to pull in the same direction reminds me of when a Singaporean army draftee caused a stir when he was photographed going through boot camp followed by his maid carrying his backpack on her shoulders. Authorities later said that he'd be counseled that this was not acceptable during boot camp.
Effective leaders don't clean up the messes that their employees create, nor should they act like drill sergeants either. You've got to be a motivator, counselor and feedback collecting machine to get the most out of people today. Yes, I'm telling you to put away the stick and to focus on the carrot or honey (depending on which metaphor works the best for you). To help point all you leaders, and leader wanna-be's in the right direction, I've listed the 4-F's of leadership below.
Fair. I did a poll a few years ago asking what employees wanted the most at work. A bigger paycheck wasn't the top vote getter, neither was bigger benefits or more time off. No being treated fairly came in as the most important thing to have at work. Work is a community and most members of the community want to be sure that they're getting a fair shake, it's not that complicated.
Flexible. Have you ever worked for someone who was always right? It's a pretty painful experience. Now make that person your boss and watch the creativity wither and die. Being flexible to new ideas is so important in a turbulent and competitive workplace. As someone once said, "You paid for my hands, you get my brain for free." Are you really using the brains of the people who work for you? Are you open to new ideas? Do you say "No, because..." or "Yes, if..." when people bring you new ideas?
Future focused. Most of us live in the day to day of our jobs. It's a leaders job to look ahead to anticipate opportunities and obstacles. With so many focused on the quarterly results, it's challenging to take in a bigger picture. But necessary.
Fallible. Innovation only comes from making mistakes. Lots of them. Yet most bosses talk up the importance of mistakes, but then they punish anyone who makes one. So how do you turn this around? Talk about your own mistakes with your people. Remarkably people respond best when they see the boss as someone they can relate to, who is honest and who understands their challenges.
Follow the 4-F's and you're people won't need someone to carry their stuff, they'll put your business on their backs and take it to the next level.
Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.
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"I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.""
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