It seems as though every business-related book, blog or speech these days is titled to emphasize the unique economic times that we are experiencing. Titles like: "Selling When the Economy Stinks", "Finding a Job in Turbulent Times", "Marketing in an Upside-Down World", and even "Leading in a Piggly-Wiggly World" (aha, you caught me). Yet these are, of course, special and trying times…I certainly understand and appreciate that. And there are different business methods and actions that are more appropriate now than, say, three or four years ago when the economy was riding high. On the other hand, much of what is effective and relevant these days also works in any economic environment. That’s because in business, just like in sports (e.g., baseball: throwing, catching, and hitting), the basics work. This is true whether we’re talking about communicating with others, growing sales, developing people, or making operations more efficient. And the same is true with leadership: much of what is espoused as appropriate leadership techniques for these "unique" times, actually works regardless of the economic environment.
So, let’s take a look at what continue to be some keys to effective leadership:
→ See the big picture. Understand the context: the what and why of the environment and situation. Be well-versed in industry trends and dynamics, the competitive landscape, and the needs of customers. Maintain a long-range view and drive the business vision and strategy. A good manager does things right. A leader does the right things. Doing the right things implies a goal, a direction, a vision, a path, a reach.
→ Focus on people. Hire and develop a great team. Be in touch and really listen to your employees. Align resources and talents with roles. Motivate and inspire people to perform at their highest level.
→ Focus on results. Achieving desired results is an outcome of great leadership. Be a goal setter and achiever. Robert Waldo Emerson stated that "The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going." Prioritize business objectives, track key metrics, and respond quickly when problems arise.
→ Maintain perspective. Keep a steady, positive attitude…in good times and bad. Keep your ego in check. Be objective about business challenges and investigate reality. Depend on others and ask for help when appropriate.
→ Keep an open mind. Don’t be blinded by current practices and paradigms. Be entrepreneurial; innovate, and initiate and promote change. Leo Damkroger said that "You can change without improving, but you can’t improve without changing."
→ Demonstrate full integrity. It has been said that "Wisdom is knowing the right path to take…Integrity is taking it." Understand and adhere to your core values. Do the right thing; deliver on your commitments. Inspire trust by others. Be authentic: your own person. There is only one of you, so why waste time trying to be someone else?
So whether the article is titled "The ABCs of Leadership" or "Leadership in a Topsy-Turvy, Upside-Down, and When-Will-this-Roller-Coaster-Ride-End World", focus on the basics and not the fluff. The basics worked 20 years ago and they’ll work 20 years from now. One thing is certain and that is that times are going to change. Yogi Berra insightfully stated that "The future ain’t what it used to be!" True enough. But if you stick to the basics (and not the flavor of the month) when it concerns leading others and organizations, you are likely to be quite successful, regardless of the circumstances.