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Observations about leadership – yesterday, today and tomorrow.

A colleague of mine used to say, “even a turkey can fly in a stiff wind!” We worked in a very cyclical business and we both had witnessed our fair share of euphoric ups, and the most horrific downs. Specifically, we would watch leaders’ actions, behaviours and communications during sudden shifts down, or up. There are many observations I’m noting about our situation today that take me back to this ‘fowl phrase.’

Some of us are good leaders when things are going well. When markets are strong, capital is flowing, and consumer demand is climbing to ever new heights, many organizations can do well and, in some cases, it can be in spite of ourselves. By that I mean a strong market can hide some of the inherent flaws in our model, our offering, our people, and in many cases, our own leadership capability.

All of us have many positive skills and attributes that help us lead and manage, but there are certain capabilities we have that really shine when there is an ‘abundance’ mentality prevalent in the market we serve.

Conversely, some of us are great leaders when things are not going so well. We excel when there is a market downturn or when a business is in significant trouble due to poor strategy or dysfunctional business model. We’ve all heard of “turnaround specialists”: These are people that can see all the opportunities in an otherwise bleak picture. These leaders thrive when a ‘scarcity’ mentality is in play.

It can be really challenging for leaders to get their head into current ‘scarcity’ space, especially if they typically excel in the ‘abundance’ space. They need to draw on skills and behaviours that they are not as comfortable with. Right now, leaders need to show patience, empathy, understanding, stability and innovation. These are quite different skills from a year ago when leaders needed to show drive, urgency, accountability and focus.

As with anything in life, we are most comfortable when we have balance, and create a balanced approach. Good leaders surround themselves with people that share the same values but don’t think, act, behave and communicate the same way we do. This creates the balance for them to be successful in the short term and sustainable in the long term.

I’m sure it feels like you couldn’t possibly take the time to look at the big picture or too far down the road because you’re just trying to manage the myriad of issues that need your attention before next Tuesday.

The fact is, now is the time. It’s the best time. You need to make sure you’re bringing your best self to the situation.

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