When business is booming and the economy is raising our revenues, it’s easy to perform our role as a leader.
The key behaviors are easily manifested and evident to all employees. “Walking the talk” is easy. Leaders even preach the attributes of a good leader to their direct reports. They also enjoy dropping quotes from great leaders of the past.
However, challenging times tend to test our leadership resolve. Difficult times can test the values we preach. Such hard times can test our leadership competencies. It is in these moments that we need to hold on stronger to ideal leadership competencies and behaviors. This is the time where our people look up to us for guidance and to set an example for them to follow.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3
It is in these moments that we need to understand and observe ourselves. We need to pay close attention to our leadership style. We need to be critical of how we behave towards our current situation and towards our people.
From experience consulting for different company leaders in good times and in bad, here are a few signs to watch out for. If you start seeing any of these manifests in your leadership style then it’s time to take a pause and assess why you are behaving the way you are behaving. Assess how your leadership behavior is helping or hindering your current situation.
- We start to de-priorities the development of our people.
In times of blessings and times of lack, people should always be our most important asset. We cannot have people as our most important asset in good times and in bad times bring them down the pecking order. It will be our good people sticking with us that will help us through difficult times. We may need to reduce our manpower in downtimes, however, let’s make sure we keep the good ones. Great companies invest more in the development of their people instead of cutting down the training budget. Management guru Peter Drucker said, “If you think training is expensive, try ignorance.”
- We start blaming first and ask questions after
Democracy reigns in good times. Everyone has an equal voice in good times. In bad times, we sometimes shift to finger-pointing. Instead of asking the question “what happened, what’s the root cause, how can we correct it, how can we prevent recurrence”, we default to “who is to blame for this?”
Such a work environment causes people to be afraid to try anything for fear of reprisal. Nobody also wants bad news to trickle up for fear that the messenger of bad news gets the ax. By the time senior management gets wind of an issue, it has already ballooned into a big problematic snowball.
- We fight industry trends
What got you there, won’t get you to the next level. Too many times, I have seen the reason for a company’s success turning into the reason for its failure. Company founders hold on to their original success formula. Software companies using the same antiquated programming approach even though it has been made obsolete by the industry. Retail businesses refusing to create a hybrid digital/brick-and-mortar model. People standing on street corners marketing their products and services using old-fashioned flyers.
Do we really think we can beat industry trends? Blockbuster thought that they can keep the lead by ignoring Netflix. They filed for chapter 11. Kodak refused to move to Digital cameras since their massive growth was fueled by film-based technology. They filed for chapter 11. Did Barnes & Noble think that building more stores would win the hearts of customers that are moving into digital books? They filed for chapter 11.
- We start losing high-potential people and retain the bad apples.
When signs of bad leadership start to manifest itself in the workplace, it’s the good employees that jump ship. These high performers know their market value. It’s the none-performers that tend to stay. Why? They have no place to go. Now take a balcony moment and check your business. Your company is currently under a lot of stress and the people you have are mostly non-performers. The good ones went out of the front door.
- We don’t openly bring faith in the workplace
Deuteronomy 8:18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth; that He may confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
When we succeed, we often think it was purely on our own accord and effort. We think that the growth of our business stems from our intelligence and tenacity. What we forget is that our talents, opportunities, blessings, wealth, valuable employees, valuable clients, favorable market trends, education, parents, family name and so on came from our creator. None of our success is purely ours to solely claim. Why is it that we do not openly acknowledge or practice our faith? Are we ashamed to be seen as an obedient follower? Are we ashamed to show that we rely on a higher power for our business?
Captains of industries with an openly strong faith in God have grown their business to billions of dollars in annual revenues. You have Dan Cathy (Chik-fil-A) grew his business to 2,363 stores with annual revenues of $10.5 Billion. You have Dave Thomas, CEO of Wendys with their 800 stores. James Cash Penny with 2,000 JC Penny store locations.
Clearly, faith in the workplace works.
- We start mixing personal and professional views
When times are good, leaders can separate their personal from work views. Even if they do not like people at a personal level they can work with them.
When times are tough, the line between personal and work views starts to blur. The leader’s personal views start to cloud their work judgment. Dealing with good people with opposing views starts to get painted in a bad light.
Once they have a bad view of good people, everything these people say is taken in a negative context. Good people that are marked as (personally) bad eventually leave the company.
There are other tell-tale signs of a leadership 180-degree turn. These are just examples of signs to look out for. With God by our side, we can maintain our positive Leadership behaviors in good times and in bad.
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