Visionary Leadership in a Bad Economy

The economy has always played a large role in business, and in its current state it is highlighting a major concern across the board – the lack of Visionary Leadership.  Unfortunately, too many companies are managing their business to maintain margins instead of using this time to develop opportunities to grow once the financial issues work themselves out, if not sooner.

Companies, communities, organizations, etc., have always been governed by the feeling that if you are not growing, then you are shrinking.  There really is no room for standing still or battening down the hatches.  We see this in business, politics, sports and more, yet it is maddening to see it happen again and again.  It does not mean that entities should spend, spend, spend in the hopes of a turnaround.  It does mean that leadership should push for development of product, communications, strategy, distribution and even worker advancement.

A friend reminded me how Wrigley Chewing Gum was not produced during WWII due to its factories being used for military production, yet they continued to market the gum throughout the war.  Upon the war’s completion, sales of the gum went through the roof due to awareness from efforts when the product wasn’t even available!

Of course, that’s somewhat of an extreme example, but the basics are absolutely relevant – don’t miss the opportunity to build toward the future now.  If there are things that need to be completed for your business now to ensure success in the future, why wait 90 days to commence planning for growth programs that can be implemented once cash-flow stabilizes?  If you wait, you’re that many months behind in your ability to capitalize on opportunities.

There’s a few other major keys or benefits (other than increasing the bottom line) to solid leadership and no stagnation:

  • Team Morale – If production is down, the opportunity to use staff resources to research and develop future opportunites leverages capital and builds enthusiasm for the future.  It’s human nature for people to grow worried about possible layoffs, but providing a goal of the future keeps things moving forward and best prepares the company for the upturn.
  • Resource Management – The above practice also allows for employees to exhibit or develop their skills in a growth capacity.  Where management might not see team growth opportunities when the company is resting on its laurels – the challenge for innovation and growth really allows people to shine – if they want to…
  • Positive Trust – Too often, upper management will use fear as a way to motivate.  Some will even say that the employees don’t want to know the truth if it is dire.  The opposite is the case in both instances.  By being open about any situation that could affect staff numbers or output, it removes the opportunity for rumors.  If done right, it can challenge teams to come up with solutions that will be heard by upper management. No matter how strong upper management is, they might not have been in the trenches for a long time – if at all.  The ones in the trenches often have golden nuggets of opportunity to share if they are allowed to.  If an employee is going to listen to the truth, be welcomed to participate in the turnaround and decide to not step up or leave, they probably weren’t part of your growth plans to begin with.  Again, its human nature to want to do the safe thing and stay put, but it is also human nature for most people to derive joy and pride from being a part of something bigger.  Don’t cut them out of the solution decision making or assume they can’t handle the truth.
  • The Yes Test – If too many people are looking to only offer what leadership wants to hear – more often than not – it’s wrong.  Good decisions and growth come from honest discussion.  It means that opposing views can be presented if relevant and nobody at the table feels that they must agree for fear of getting the axe.  Granted, all out dissention is probably not the best thing, but you wouldn’t have hired the team you did without feeling they can best represent the company’s goals.  Don’t make the mistake of creating an environment of yesses.
  • You don’t know it all – The best managers have been open to ideas other than their own and then worked the best ideas into the companies’ actions.  Those who think they know it all and don’t trust those around htem will undoubtedly sink the ship.
  • There is never an option to stop motivating.  Again, human nature demands it.  It is not always best to lead by example – because that example can be missed.  Leading requires clear communication and consistency so that the ship can maintain its, hopefully growning, trajectory.

The list could go on.  Ultimately, the opportunity for growth does not require taking unnatural risks.  Sometimes, it requires you to take no risks at all – just proper management of existing resources.  Don’t just look to cut for the sake of cutting – you’ll probably cut your nose of to spite your face.

Take the opportunity to be visionary.  There’s far too many positives that come from it.

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