A leader is often defined as someone who knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way. In good times, leadership seems fairly straightforward because the path is comfortably predictable. However, it is in challenging times that the best leaders have the opportunity to live up to this maxim.
Without a doubt, we find ourselves in the most challenging times we have ever faced as a nation. At national and international levels, governments have the critical tasks of managing the expectations of citizens, containing the health situation, implementing policies that secure livelihoods, as well as facilitating international relations that are key to solving the crisis at scale.
Organisations are similarly placed. These are times when business structures and modes of working are changing. These seismic business changes need leaders to stand up and lead decisively, because all eyes are on them.
Leadership is about bouncing back
A leader is probably never the star performer in a room. They may not be the most intelligent or the most knowledgeable, but they are certainly the most charismatic. A large part of being a leader who can make a difference is being empathetic towards the situation and how it is affecting the team. A leader reads the situation right and understands the problem – enabling decisions that people want to support.
Effective leaders can mobilise talent and enthuse people with purpose. Driving people to first identify with a shared goal and then perform to potential until it is achieved, sets a true leader apart from the rest.
In challenging times, this becomes the most important aspect of leadership. Individual stars are good enough to make a mark when the going is good, but it takes a crisis to realise that collective action is the only impactful solution and it is in these situations that a leader is needed.
Leadership is therefore almost always about delivering in a challenging situation – once that results in the fortunes of a nation, organisation or team bouncing back in a sustainable manner. Importantly, the key to this aspect of leadership is the right identification of the agenda and communicating it effectively with all stakeholders.
Leadership can’t be taught
Leadership is an amalgamation of the right mindset and the in-born, natural inclination to connect with and understand people. Empathy and emotional connection can’t be stressed enough when discussing essential aspects of leadership in challenging times.
Leaders need to have their ear to the ground, so that they can chalk out plans, strategise on the best way forward and make informed predictions ahead of time. To back this up, leaders also need to have a firm conviction in their own ability to execute their plans and deliver on goals.
In difficult times, validation through other people in the team is hard to come by; uncertainty looms large and it’s on leaders to collect information, analyse and ultimately trust their instincts. It is also necessary for leaders to be comfortable with change, as agility is imperative to continuously re-assess their own plans and make amendments based on how situations unfurl.
Leadership is never about a single win
Diversity in leadership is gaining momentum across spheres – in age, gender and outlook. We have a few amazing examples of world leaders and country heads who have the vision and communicate it often through their speech. They believe in engaging and motivating their teams – helping them understand how their achievements lead to a greater good.
They exhibit trust in their people, enabling empowerment, and unleashing unbridled creativity. They address conflict before it festers and affects morale. The best leaders manage tough personalities because they know that tough personalities can wreak havoc on the environment.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)