By James Kouzes and Barry Posner
It wasn’t long ago that normal meant slow and steady. Today, normal means expect the unexpected, requiring a new set of leadership rules. To help leaders fully engage people and strengthen their resilience in uncertain times, we took a fresh look at what leaders do when they are at their personal best. We identified six common strategies you should incorporate into your leadership practices to be successful in turning adversity into opportunity.
1. Broaden the context: View what’s happening from a historical perspective. Doing so provides an understanding of how others have dealt with challenging times. Research has shown that people who first reflect on their past during stressful circumstances and tell positive stories about handling hardships are more effective in dealing with adversity and rebound more quickly.
2. Defy the verdict: People want to know the truth, even if it’s bad news. If you want your team to respond with fierce determination during periods of business adversity, you need to increase your level of communication about what is really going on. Exemplary leaders acknowledge reality, but do not dwell on the threat. See change as a challenge and move quickly to mobilize resources in order to defy the verdict.
3. Fully commit to what’s important: During tough times, exemplary leaders make certain everyone understands the purpose that guides decisions so as to gain alignment between people and values.
4. Take charge: Michele Goins, a veteran CIO in high-tech firms, said, “Leadership opportunities are in the moment. What makes the difference between being a leader or not is how you respond in the moment.” You have to respond assertively to moments of trial and adversity.
5. Engage others: Collaboration and trust among your team are essential to building capacity to get through difficulties. Neuroscientists are discovering that our brains are wired to connect. People engaged with one another are motivated to strengthen their relationships with one another, resolve interpersonal conflicts, and find win-win solutions.
6. Show you care: Ajay Godbole, IT principal consultant with Oracle, notes that “Leaders who have the courage to show how they care for the team and the organization build strong interpersonal connections among their team. This bond is the difference between a team that can overcome challenges and a team that disintegrates at the first challenge.” Showing you care is personal. But if you want people to hang in there when times are tough and continue to give it their all, let them know — regularly — they are valued.
Adapting these six leadership rules will enable you and your organization to take the initiative and move forward in the new normal environment.