But, a leader's real worth doesn't come during the easy time. It comes when things go wrong.
I was reminded of this last week when two events I was involved in didn't go off as planned. When life throws you curve balls, you have two choices: curl up in the fetal position or plow through the challenge.
As a leader, this is especially true. When what you planned doesn't go off as expected, tensions can start to run high. Finger pointing begins, and enemies are made. A leader's job during these times is to guide those who follow you through the muck.
While there are many things a leader can do, here are three that are vitally important when things go bad.
- Re-group and Re-focus: When it becomes apparent that Plans A, B and C have failed, your crew will probably become a bit testy. Realization of failure doesn't go over well, and tempers will begin to flare. This is where the leader needs to recognize that its time for damage control. Re-focusing on new goals in the middle of failure will help squelch the complaints and finger pointing while giving your crew a new goal.
- Accept the blame: When the plan goes bad, its natural for people to look for someone to blame. We see this in the public scene all the time. Government officials and politicians are always trying to blame their opponents for the bad stuff, but will never accept any of the blame themselves. A good leader will readily admit that any failures rest on her shoulders. By doing this, the leader cuts off the finger pointing among her staff. In the end, this helps preserve harmony within the organization. It's much easier to admit that the leader failed than to do damage control among a hurt and frustrated staff.
- Look for the small wins: Frustration and anger easily set in when things go wrong. It becomes easy to admit the whole plan is a failure, but it is the leader's responsibility to provide hope through the frustration. As a leader, you must look for small wins amongst the greater defeat. You have to change your people's focus on the new dynamic, and guide them toward a win, even if its a marginal victory.