Tough Leaders for Tough Times

By Kathy Miller on July 8th, 2013

Leading an organization through tough times isn’t for wimps! It is difficult to stay upbeat when faced with adversity. Anxiety and defensiveness are natural reactions to challenging phases of organizational life. And yet those we lead will be watching us. To a large extent the leaders’ behavior will set the tone for the organization. I believe that self-awareness is the foundation for strong leadership any time, especially during crises. I base this assertion on a number of factors.

First, in order to control our behaviors, we need to understand our emotions. For example, fear is likely to lead to defensiveness, sadness to withdrawal and so forth. Understanding our own feelings will help prevent self-destructive behaviors that could also harm our organizations.

Second, we must be in touch with our own feeling first before we can truly empathize with others. And empathy is critical to leading people through difficult times. I am not suggesting that all of our decisions should depend on the feelings of others. Sometimes we will need to make hard decisions that we know will affect others adversely. However, while making these decisions for the sake of the business, the strong leaders will implement them with empathy and sensitivity to others. His or her behavior will not be cavalier nor callous. We must avoid the mistake of hiding behind these self-protective styles. They will not serve us or our organizations well as we navigate through the turmoil.

Finally, self-awareness is the first step towards humility. Strong leaders never forget that they are human and must show their human faces if they are to be respected and followed.