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.
- Make sure to remind people what they have been working for and how significant their work really is. Think about the questions that have rattled around in your mind when you have hit hurdles that seemed nearly insurmountable. Remember how you personally climbed over the wall and then translate what you learned into help for the people you lead. Really there are very few options when facing a hardship. One option is to quit. A better option is to keep pressing on with a full awareness of the significance of the work you are doing. Let us not give up when there really is so much on the line.
- Carefully evaluate what really is most important. If there are things that are sucking your time and energy and yet not truly making a major difference in your work: let them go. There is nothing like crisis and hardship to reveal what matters and what really doesn’t. Give people permission to let go of things that distract, encumber or deplete. If we are going to spend so much time and energy in order to turn the negative situation upside down the last thing any of us need is to be wasteful and reckless with the valuable resources we do have at our disposal.
- Use your words carefully to constantly affirm and build up people, replace negativity with an atmosphere of possibility and push back ideas or sentiments that undermine forward progress. It is amazing how often people foretell their own failure and then they seem to work diligently to make sure it comes to pass. In difficult times there are often so few people that point the way to victory, we need to be the ones who through our words and actions continuously remind people of the better things ahead.
I would like to say to you that I hope you don’t go through turbulent times but that really isn’t what is best for you or me. It is through difficulties that we learn much, find our character, wisdom, and abilities shaped and even experience growth spurts in our leadership and accomplishments. So as you face stormy seas, please be the one who keeps on encouraging, giving hope and leading people through to the other side!