Are you the courageous leader your business needs?

 

When times were good, business leaders were able to get away with tough, aggressive – even bullying – styles of “leadership”. They were forgiven for engaging in self-indulgent theatre rather than acting in the best interests of their business or their people.

 

One day this kind of behaviour may become acceptable again. But in today’s business environment it is not.

 

Today – and for the foreseeable future – employees and managers need calm, candid and focused leadership to steer them through choppy waters. They need real leaders, with:

 

·          strong communication skills,

·          selfless, self-confident commitment to people, and

·          the ability to take courageous decisions in an atmosphere of uncertainty.

 

Communicate

When the challenges facing business are raised a few notches, many “leaders” are exposed as poor communicators and motivators.

 

They may well be competent in traditional disciplines such as strategic planning, operational control, customer orientation and financial know-how. But they cannot rally a demoralized workforce and demonstrate the basic essential of leadership: getting things done through people.

 

Fear of the unknown is a powerful emotion. So, in difficult times, frequent and candid communication is essential.

 

Be honest

A good leader knows that he or she does not have all the answers. Be honest with your people. Tell them what you do or do not know. Ask for feedback and opinion. Ask them what they know. Make time for those who need to communicate with you. Focus on what’s important to them, not you.

 

To be a great leader, you need to look through your people’s eyes. Don’t evade issues. Use all possible channels of communication, from informal chats to employee newsletters.

 

Make imperfect decisions

There is never a truly “perfect” or “correct” decision, so don’t stall momentum by looking for it. Make decisions and manage the consequences.

 

Don’t indulge in the time-consuming practice of perfect planning. It’s much more important to champion progress. Encourage individuals with drive to move things forward. Back their decisions, even if they make mistakes.

 

Be highly visible

Good leaders are able to energize, inspire and excite, rather than depress and control. Be approachable. Set up impromptu discussions with your people at all levels. Don’t let your distance add to their anxiety.

 

Use your visibility to connect all parts of the business: sales team, senior management, and boardroom. This will ensure a collective approach to moving the company forward.

 

Set an example

In times of crisis, your behaviour sets the tone. The market has changed: good leaders adapt. Don’t be afraid to be seen as learning new things. Let others know it’s OK to do the same.

 

Manage less. Empower, delegate, then get out of the way. The key to survival is your ability to nurture great leaders of the future. You can’t do this if you are bogged down in the minutiae of micro-management.

 

Smile! Make time for people. Seek feedback. Be available, be personal and take an interest in other people’s challenges. Apportion credit and take the blame. Show that sacrifices are shared.

 

Learn and relearn

Make sure – and show – that you are up to speed with all the latest news and data concerning your industry, people and environment. Be a source of external knowledge. Meet and communicate with other CEOs and leaders.

 

Courage takes centre stage

Courage – not theatrics or pure personality – will define the successful leaders of today and tomorrow. Articulate your vision and spark others to execute it.

 

And remember, good leadership is not just crucial in the distressed environment. It should be best practice at all times. 

 

 

 

 

About Terry Irwin

 

Terry Irwin is the Founder and CEO of TCii Strategic and Management Consultants. He is a management consultant with international experience in strategy development, business turnarounds, venture capital, M&As and project management.

 

Before setting up TCii, he spent over 20 years in the corporate world with GSK and Henkel, managing consumer goods and services businesses, living in 14 different countries and working in 30 on several continents.

 

Terry has consulted for a wide range of organizations, from multinationals to start-ups and growing companies. He now specializes in enabling corporate change, helping people in both manufacturing and service industries to embrace change positively and successfully.

 

He can be contacted at terry.irwin@tcii.co.uk

 

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