Leading in Turbulent Times

And there will be turbulent times.

There are times when leadership seems easy because things are going smoothly, every person seems to know their role, the team’s efforts are just clicking and momentum even is working in your favor. There are other times when leadership is far more difficult and demanding because of confusion, discouragement, unforeseen landmines and dysfunction. Sometimes it would seem that we choose to lead because of the “good” times and yet the people we influence probably need our leadership efforts much more when times are difficult.

I recently read two quotes that really impacted me. One asked a simple question: “How do you know if someone needs encouragement?” The answer: “They’re breathing”. The second quote reminded leaders that if you aren’t bringing hope to your people nobody else probably is either.I hope you would keep these two things in mind as you help others navigate troubled waters. Furthermore, I would like to propose three things that leaders need to do in difficult times that may make all the difference in the world.

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Limping Leadership

Some words of encouragement for Limping Leaders

Limping Leadership

There are countless blogs, articles, books, and resources about good leadership and strong leadership. But what do you do when you find that your leadership is limping? What should a leader do when they realize that their stride has been shortened and perhaps even taking another step is filled with pain, difficulty or second-guessing? In this post, I would like to propose three simple baby-steps that leaders with a limp can take.

Limping leaders need to discover what has caused the limp. If we don’t know why we are limping, how will we ever fix it? Is it as simple as a pebble in the shoe that needs to be removed? Or is a tendon or ligament worn out from overuse? Is the limp from something worse like a break or carrying too heavy of a load for too long? If you are a leader and you have a limp, please take the time to go to the people with the insights, experience, and wisdom to diagnose the cause of the limp and prescribe a treatment for healing.

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Leading a Team of Direct Reports

Three Things That Will Make You a Better Leader


Leading and coaching people who directly report to you is a different endeavor than coaching someone who has no formal accountability to you. Coaching people can be exceptionally fun and rewarding, however when those being coached see you as “the boss” the dynamics of that relationship are much more complex. Because of cultural depictions of “the boss” and individuals’ personal experiences with previous managers, sometimes it is an extremely difficult and delicate task to lead direct reports. In this post, I want to give you 3 practical steps for leading direct reports that will make your entire experience more enjoyable and more profitable.

First, to be an effective leader of a team of direct reports you will need to overcome stereotypes and individuals’ perceptions/misperceptions of you. We are always initially judged by people not based on who we are but based on the employers/managers/bosses who came before us. It would be an impossible task to try and identify everything that has ever been done wrong in the name of leadership but there are three big things that always come up:

  • “He is so bossy”
  • “She doesn’t pay any attention to me”
  • “I don’t ever know what’s going on around here”

How Do I Fix That?

As a leader of direct reports, work diligently to let your team know that they are valued, they are important to you and the team, and that you are available to them but will not smother them with your presence. Make sure to communicate and over-communicate important data about the organization and team but also about the roles, abilities, and accomplishments of the team.  If a team member senses your trust and respect of them, and the value you place on them as a part of the team you will be able to overcome some of the baggage they brought with them regarding leaders.

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Inspiring and Leading to Greatness

4 Things You Can Do Now!

Inspire Others

What does it take to inspire and lead others to greatness in their own lives and in the organizations they are part of? How do we draw out of them their potential and their giftedness?

In the general sense, we have to convince them of what is possible. We will have to paint word pictures, cast vision, set goals etc. But in a very practical, “where-the-rubber-meets-the-road” sense, the work we have to do is more specific than that. As leaders, we must meet with people one-on-one and lead with questions, affirm their abilities, develop their perception of themselves and the world around them, and practically expand in their minds the realm of what is possible.

Inspire Others

Here are 4 specific and practical things you can do to inspire others:

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Leading Meetings That People Enjoy

Leading Meetings

Think back to the last business meeting you had. Was it fun? I know you just laughed a little. Would you describe that meeting as a highlight of your week? (Stop laughing at me.) Or do you think that the meeting made a definitive difference in the work you do? (Alright, that’s enough, I am beginning to get a complex.) I know you are beginning to think I am a bit crazy. I know, just hear me out.

One of the most frustrating things in work can be the meetings that you have to go to. But these can also be fun and inspiring when certain things occur. Even so, there are probably as many jokes about terrible meetings as there are about terrible lawyers and so I want to offer a few ideas on how to lead a better meeting.

You and I both have probably left meetings where we felt that it was completely pointless for us to ever attend again. You probably have thought to yourself: “If I put a cardboard cutout of myself in my seat, the chairman won’t even notice”. In short, I can’t stand going to meetings where my presence, my wisdom and my input is not valued or sought out. If I am going to show up, I don’t want just a lecture, and I don’t want unilateral dispensing of information, ideas and philosophy. Instead, I have this idea that if I am going to come to a meeting it is because I have something to offer. I hope that is why you come as well.

So I want to give three parts to this post. First I want to share about meetings I hate, second I want to share ways to motivate, inspire and challenge during our meetings and lastly I want to share about leading with questions.

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Leading in the Midst of Turmoil

Leading in the Midst of Turmoil

What should you do if you find yourself the leader in the midst of turmoil?

There are difficulties in life, in the home, in the workplace, yes, even in society. These difficulties stretch us, and bring out both the worst and best in each of us. In an era of social media, blogging and with the prevalence of cell phone cameras, it is quite easy to play “Monday morning quarterback” and pass judgment and heap praise on leaders whose faces and stories go “viral”. But what do you do when (not if) you come upon tumultuous times in your organization / city / etc.?

In this post I would like look at three crucial components of leading through a crisis.

The first aspect of crisis leadership is actually determined before you ever approach the turmoil. If you want to lead effectively in a crisis you must first lay a firm foundation of personal character development, strong interpersonal communications and healthy team dynamics. C.S. Lewis once said “If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly.  But the suddenness does not create the rats:  it only prevents them from hiding.” (Mere Christianity).  The same is true about leading in a crisis. The crisis will reveal the quality of the foundation that has been laid, but the crisis did not cause the leadership to be as it is. The reality is that in this world we will face difficulties, frustrations, disappointments, turmoil and crisis. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that these times will not come. Instead, let us now prepare ourselves and our teams for the inevitable. I have often found that if I am able to actually create environments (leadership development exercises) where my team has to face a manufactured “mini-crisis” it greater prepares them for the real thing when it comes. There are numerous ways to do this, but think of it as drills, role-play, training, and/or practice for facing what will come. There are some things only learned by actually going through them, but if we can prepare our character, develop our communication skills and develop our team’s effectiveness and productivity now, the trials to come may be more manageable.

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Why I Lead

Green man showing the leadership qualities and red man showing isolated people

I have asked myself the question: “Why do I lead?

And I have come up with the following reasons.

  • I lead in order to help others.
  • I lead that change might come to the people, organizations and cities I interact with.
  • I lead that others might find themselves, discover their purpose, be transformed and become mature, contributing members of society.
  • I lead because there are many negative influences in the lives of people and unfortunately at least some of the masses seem to blindly follow these influences, seemingly ignorant of consequences.
  • I lead because there do exist moral absolutes and principles which lives, organizations, culture and society need to be founded upon, but far too often are forgotten or ignored and someone needs to bravely proclaim these truths in the face of all opposition.
  • I lead because there seems to be a vacuum of healthy and helpful leadership.
  • I lead because common sense seems lacking and I believe that leadership, at least in part, can help to restore some manner of common sense to others
  • I lead that the lives and the future possibilities of those I lead might be improved.
  • I lead in the hopes of setting an example of living and serving that others will want to emulate.
  • I lead because when I see injustice, suffering, people struggling, or people who just need a hand, I simply cannot sit idly by.
  • I lead because there is an epidemic of sub-par and status-quo behavior and I believe that much of this is due to the lack of healthy leadership.
  • I lead because helping others is the right thing to do.

Why do you lead?

Photo credit: hang_in_there / Foter / CC BY

Insurmountable Circumstances – Part 2

Insurmountable - Part 2

In the first part of this series on Insurmountable Circumstances, I talked about the all-important aspects of preparing yourself, your mindset, your character, etc. After you have begun this process (since we never are fully “ready”) then you must take the time to gather the right personnel and equipment.

Aside from the inner drive to actually take on the imposing mountain in front of you, perhaps the next most important thing that is needed to climb and summit a mountain is the proper gear. Having the right supplies can make the difference between life and death, achieving or failing. You and I know that having the right equipment is important, however sometimes what makes the mountain in front of you seem insurmountable is because you know you just don’t have the stuff needed to get to the top. So how do you gather what is needed?

The truth is that no one of us has all the supplies needed in our back pocket. We must go to the appropriate stores, spend some money, take some time and procure the needed items. Similarly in the workplace and in our leadership efforts,

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Insurmountable Circumstances – Part 1

Rocky Mountains (1)

I am in the Rocky Mountains this week. As I gaze up at the beautiful snow-capped mountains I am also struck by the fact that the peaks are rugged, sheer, and without the appropriate means: insurmountable.

So what do you do when you come up against something that is insurmountable? As a leader what approach do you take when a goal seems impossible to achieve or an obstacle seems impossible to overcome?

I would like to offer a few practical insights to guide you when (not if!) you come up against a sheer and seemingly impassable “mountain”. I will deal with this in two blog posts and will address two things to help you ascend and conquer those mountains. The two primary things that will help you overcome will be 1. Preparing yourself and 2. Gathering the right team and the proper equipment.

So for this post let’s talk about the reality that to overcome insurmountable circumstances you must prepare yourself. 

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What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

What to do when you don't know what to do

What should we do when we don’t know what to do? You know the times I am talking about. Things seem to be coming at you a bit too hard and a bit too fast. Yesterday you thought you had it handled but today things are a bit too much. What do you do when it seems like things aren’t headed in a good direction and something needs to change quick before the situation either explodes or implodes and leaves nothing but pieces in its aftermath?

Many times we find ourselves doing a number of similar things each time things get a bit out of control:

  • Decompress
  • Self-medicate (through drugs, caffeine, nicotine, food, etc)
  • Rest and relaxation
  • Escape
  • Comfort aids (food, drink, music, other)

But are these the right things to do? What happens when we take this approach?

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