Leading in Difficult Times

leading in difficult times

The last few years has been one of the most challenging events of our time. And while some of have pushed forward, many are still afraid and stuck in a type of holding pattern of sorts.

For those of us in the business of leading, the stakes are high when it comes to how we handle this fear. I think it’s helpful to understand just how deep some of these fears permeated into our society.

  • People struggled with simple everyday tasks. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I heard people struggle with whether or not they should go to the grocery store versus whether to have their groceries delivered.
  • For the first time, parents struggled with their child’s education. The very school that had educated previous siblings was not safe enough or compassionate enough.
  • People let fear embed its way into family conversations often causing tension and anger with the people they loved most; this was especially evident in decisions about the vaccine.
  • Then, there was the workplace; everyone was scared, and the fear was real. Employers had to lead during required stay at home policies; employees struggled to work from home while their family literally “watched.”

There are now entire fields of study dedicated to understanding the fears that have come out of the last few years. There is even a Covid-19 fear score. And despite life returning to some form of normalcy, the fear still exists. And it impacted almost everyone equally.

Fear based leadership attempts to get results by instilling fear in employees. Most CEOs recognize that this form of leadership is destructive and destroys the confidence of the team.

It is believed that leaders turn to fear based tactics when they feel unsure, less confident in their own abilities; leaders become fearful of current, changing situations and feel the need to regain what they perceive as lost control.

Fear is the key here, and to many, these are fearful times. In the last two years our world has been turned upside down, and one only needs to listen to any news channel for even a brief time before they begin to fear; fearful of financial future; fearful for our health; fearful for our freedoms; fearful for our future.

Here are three ways that we can lead during difficult times.

Step back

As leaders, if we internalize these fears without putting all in perspective, we run the risk of becoming a leader who rules by fear simply to survive. We will lose the respect of the people we need most-our employees. Perspective is often hard to find, though. Where do we find it in a world that on the surface can seem negative? Where do we find perspective when we ourselves are fearful?

Be transparent

We find the answer in honesty and transparency. We find the answer by listening to our employees–truly listening, not just hearing. We work to pick up on subtle cues that our workers are stressed and try to find ways to relieve that stress. 

When we can’t change the situation, we are honest. Sometimes as leaders we can’t change the situation but we can soothe it. We can offer many tangibles, but sometimes all anyone needs is to hear, “I hear you.”

Set goals

We find the answer in setting clear goals and expectations and recognize that sometimes situations change. As a leader, we must be able to create a team that is not scared to make mistakes but is willing to grow from the mistakes. If fear is prevalent, very few mistakes will be made but neither will ground breaking ideas and growth. Our employees must trust themselves to do what it is they need to do to meet our expectations.

We find the answer in ourselves. The world’s greatest leaders lead by example; if we rule with fear, our employees will respond with fear. If our perspective is fearful and negative, our team will be fearful and negative. It is our jobs as leaders to look within; to find perspective. 

The world can be a scary place or it can be a place of ever-changing wonder and beauty. When the world changes, we have to change with it; we cannot fear change or fear itself.