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The 3 Steps to Strong Leadership in Hard Times

Asha B. Wilkerson February 8, 2017

In times of change, it’s easy to get swept up and lost in the chaos of the unpredictable. We spend time worrying about what this person will do, or what that person will say, not realizing all of it is out of our control. I have worried myself sick at times trying to predict the future or trying to control outcomes that are out of my purview, but in the end, I come back to the same conclusion: in chaotic times, focus on what you can control.

If we want to be strong leaders of businesses, households, and community groups, we cannot lose our footing and our direction just because the world around us is unfocused and chaotic. In fact, that is the time to pay even greater attention to this three-step process to help you make it though the storm: Retreat, Realign, and Respond.

1. Retreat

When you’re feeling confused, overwhelmed, or lost, the first step in the process of regaining your footing is to retreat. Take a break, step back, and breathe. When we are right in the mix of chaos or too close to a situation, we lose perspective and our view becomes too narrow, causing us to hyper-focus on certain aspects that we likely cannot control. Only when we step back and look at the bigger picture will we be able to formulate a plan to fix the chaos, work with the chaos, or walk away from the chaos.

Allow yourself the space to process what is happening in the world around you. Too often we operate in a frenzied state with the false belief that we cannot take time off without the world falling apart. Rest and retreat, however, are essential in weeding through chaos and to functioning as an effective leader. If you are operating in chaos, the people around you will operate in chaos as well. Not only is that unproductive, but it is unhealthy and unnecessary.

2. Realign

Your core values are guiding principles that help you make decisions and stay the course. When you are lost in the midst of chaos, you must take the time to realign yourself with your core values.

Keeping your guiding principles in mind, remember where you started, understand where you are right now, and know where you are going. When your actions align with your values, it doesn’t matter what’s happening around you. At the end of the day, your values will eliminate your confusion and lead you in the right direction.

3. Respond

After retreating and realigning, it is time to respond in a way that aligns with your core values and leads to a productive outcome for you. Communicate your next steps to those who look to you for leadership or for answers.

Communication eliminates inaccurate and unnecessary assumptions by your team members that can be damaging to your bottom line, whether you’re measuring in terms of productivity, growth, or cohesiveness. You don’t have to share everything, but, for example, if the company is going through a restructuring, share that information with your team. If you plan to eliminate a supply chain, share that information. If people are asking you questions that you don’t know the answers to, be honest. Say that you don’t have an answer just yet, but that you will get back to them as soon as you draw a conclusion. Whatever you do, don’t leave people wondering what you’re thinking. Proper communication will eliminate the fears of those around you and it will take some of the weight off your own shoulders as well.

Practice the 3 Rs of Strong Leadership In Hard times

As Heraclitus once said, “there is nothing more constant than change.” When change leads to chaos in your world, remember to retreat, realign, and then respond. Not only will this process help you internally, but it will also allow you to be a strong leader for those who look to you for direction.

Social Entrepreneurship / Stakeholder Capitalism
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