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Lessons On Leadership In Difficult Times (2020 Edition)


Are you wondering how to best provide leadership in difficult times? With the current COVID-19 crisis, leaders everywhere are wondering how they’ll navigate this difficult situation.

I’d like to share what I believe to be the four best ways to provide leadership during challenging times.

But first, let’s remember that this isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve made it through plenty of other difficult times! From the SARS epidemic in 2003 to the 2008 recession, we’re well-equipped to get through this latest pandemic.

As leaders, we need to be able to keep our heads on straight when external forces are pushing at us and things are changing rapidly. Above all, we need to figure out how to respond. And what I’ve found most useful during times like these is to step back and embody one of Strategic Coach’s
core values …

Be alert, curious, responsive, and resourceful.

It’s up to us to provide leadership in difficult times.

In times like these, most people think and act reactively. They get scared, they freak out, and they try to fix everything all at once.

But if you’re in a leadership position, you should really be doing the opposite. Sure, you can take a few minutes to freak out (these are scary times, after all), but once you’ve got that out of your system, it’s time to think rationally and proactively.

It’s up to all of us to provide leadership in difficult times. And by the way, our definition of leadership at Strategic Coach is simple. Leadership simply means providing direction. It is your job, as a leader, to provide direction to your team.

For me, that means thinking rationally and responding appropriately, calmly, and with compassion and love. That’s my way of being my best self-and I suspect it’s yours as well.

With all that said, let’s look at how you can provide leadership in difficult times by being alert, curious, responsive, and resourceful. These four lessons are always timely, but they’re particularly relevant right now.

1. Be alert.
Being alert means exactly what you think it means. It means paying attention, having your eyes open, having your head up, and looking around. It means taking in all the information available so you can then use it to provide leadership and direction for your team.

But what does it mean in the current situation we find ourselves in with COVID-19?

In this case, it means listening to reputable news sources and not paying attention to conjecture. It means keeping an eye on what’s going on in the world and what’s going on with your team.

There’s an expression from Dan Taylor, a former coach of ours who is unfortunately no longer with us, that I think is incredibly relevant right now. He had this great term called “MUSTSY.” It stands for Making Up Stuff To Scare Yourself.

This is something we all do, whether we realise it or not. As humans, we think with our emotions and we start to make things up. In this case, it might mean overthinking or hyper-analysing what’s going on with COVID-19. You might think your business is going to go under or your team members are all going to get sick-but that’s not reality!

In difficult times like this, we all need to be alert to what’s real. Otherwise, we’ll inevitably make stuff up in our minds to scare ourselves. (And isn’t that the last thing you want right now?)

So be alert. Make sure you understand what’s real and what’s conjecture. Figure out what’s actually happening with your team, your business, and your family. Being alert is always important for people in leadership roles, but it’s more important now than ever.

Situations like this can be scary for an entrepreneur. We’ve been through our fair share of scary situations at Strategic Coach, which is why we developed  The “Scary Times” Success Manual to help entrepreneurs provide leadership in difficult times and navigate through feelings of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

2. Be curious.
I think people often forget that there are still opportunities in difficult times like these. In fact, I don’t even like calling them difficult times-I prefer to call them “interesting times.” Because they are interesting!

Approaching these situations with curiosity allows us to be open to what’s possible. For those of us at Strategic Coach, that means thinking about how this will impact our clients, our coaches, and our team-not just in a negative way, but also in a positive way.

We should be asking ourselves …

  • What can we learn about remote work right now?
  • What can we learn about future-based income?
  • What types of businesses are going to thrive right now? And why?
  • How can we prepare our business for difficult times like this in the future?

When you stay curious during these times, you start to see the opportunities that are available to you. We all tend to focus on the bad stuff during difficult times, but situations like this can actually be the catalyst for massive breakthroughs in our businesses and our lives.

I guarantee there are opportunities in your business right now. Whether it’s a new revenue stream or a chance to make your team more efficient, the only way you’ll find those opportunities is by being curious.

3. Be responsive.
One of the things I appreciate most about Strategic Coach is that we help people in leadership roles think. We teach them to not just react emotionally, but to use those emotions to fuel really great thinking.

Anyone in a leadership role right now should be thinking …

  • How can I be of service?
  • How can I best take care of people?
  • How can I help?
  • How can I create value?

As a leader, you should always be thinking about these things-but in difficult times, it’s even more important. And it’s not just important for the people around you! It can help you internally as well.

Being others-focused instead of self-focused in difficult times is a phenomenal way to remove anxiety and fear. Instead of worrying about yourself, you can shift your thinking to focus on how you can be of service and how you can help other people.

Shifting to that mindset makes everything easier. Instead of worrying about what you need to do with your business or what’s going to happen, all you need to do is think about how you can best help the people around you.

It all comes down to being responsive. And, by the way, did you know that “responsible” really just means “able to respond”? I’ll let that one sink in …

4. Be resourceful.
I really enjoy this one because being resourceful spurs creativity and capability. It pushes you to see what’s truly possible in your life and your business. And during difficult times like these, we really need to be resourceful and see what we can do to turn this into a positive, valuable experience.

Think about what else you can do in this situation or how you can do things differently. How can you communicate more effectively with your team? What can you change in your business to make this situation better?

Instead of retreating and hiding, think about what else you can do and how you can use the resources available to you to not only get through this but make it a positive experience.

After all, we’ve been through situations like this before. Maybe something happened with your personal family economics. Maybe something happened with your team. Maybe someone experienced a dramatic illness previously.

This is the time to think back to those moments, take the lessons you’ve learned, and put them to use. Be resourceful! This is nothing more than an opportunity for us to stay grounded and create value for others. We have the opportunity to do things differently and do things well, despite what’s happening in the world.

These four ways of being are great instructions for life, but they’re especially useful during challenging times like these. So whatever you’re facing right now, just be sure to be alert, curious, responsive, and resourceful.

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