Not everyone can be a leader, but anyone can lead a project when the going is good. Once success has been achieved, it becomes the easiest job in the world. All you have to do in those circumstances is tell people to carry on doing what they’re already doing, and success will be sustained. What separates a bad leader from a good leader is the actions they take when things aren’t going so well. Good leadership doesn’t prevent difficulties from arising, but it does dictate how difficulties are overcome. Nobody can consider themselves a good leader if they don’t know how to turn a failing or challenging project around.
Everyone reacts to challenges in different ways, but there are certain traits that great leaders exhibit when they’re faced with problems that they didn’t anticipate or can’t immediately correct. These are the traits you need to embrace and exhibit if you want your peers to see leadership qualities in you. Let’s not just talk in broad terms, though – let’s discuss the actual traits, and explain why they matter.
Being a great leader isn’t about taking action for the sake of taking action. There are times when all you need to do is keep your nerve and remain patient, and results will eventually come. The problem is that when things aren’t going wrong, there’s a temptation – and perhaps even a pressure – to change tactics. That’s not a great idea when you have good cause to believe that your current approach will eventually pay dividends. Don’t use this as an excuse for inaction, though. You need to be able to prove to yourself that there’s reason to believe that waiting is the best tactic and have evidence on your side to justify it to others. A patient approach is advocated by many of the great business leaders of the moment and is usually best demonstrated by taking a long view of short-term situations.
You don’t have all the answers. Nobody does. Only arrogant fools believe that they already have all the information required to make the best decisions. If something is going wrong, you need to know why. That doesn’t only mean understanding the surface problems – it means finding the root cause of the problem. You need to keep digging until you find the weakest point in the change. It would also benefit you to find out how other people have dealt with the same problem in the past. It’s incredibly unlikely that you’re the first person in history to come up against your current problem. Other people will have encountered the same issue and overcome it before, and many of those people are happy to share their advice. If you don’t feel like you have all the facts, don’t make any decisions until you do. Knee-jerk reactions are almost always a terrible idea, and any decision made without sufficient consideration counts as a knee-jerk reaction.
Humility and Humanity
When a business is facing difficulties, those difficulties don’t only exist for you. They’ll affect the confidence and morale of your staff, and shouting at them is unlikely to improve the situation. People are not machines, and there are times when they need an arm around their shoulders and gentle encouragement to get the best out of them. You don’t have to become everyone’s best friend, but showing empathy isn’t a weakness. Acknowledge that things are hard at the moment. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions so long as you keep them in check. This might sometimes involve admitting you’ve made mistakes. If your staff feel they can relate to you, they’re more likely to perform well for you.
There might not be a ‘safe’ way out of the situation you’re facing. When you’re in trouble, you sometimes have to take the risk of facing more trouble in order to get out of it. That might mean borrowing money, laying people off, changing your approach, or otherwise taking yourself out of your comfort zone. Remember how people approach online slots. We’ll use the “Chilli Heat” slots online UK game as an example both because it’s popular and because being under pressure can feel a lot like being exposed to chili heat! Everybody knows that there’s no guarantee you’ll win when you play online slots, but they simultaneously understand that there’s a chance of victory if luck is with them. You can’t hit the jackpot playing online slots if you’re not willing to take risks along the way. It’s too simplistic to say that risks in business are equivalent to risks in online slots, but the ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ approach can work if you can’t see any other way out of the situation.
Once you’ve decided how you’re going to deal with the problem, stick to that decision. If you change your mind repeatedly and attempt to employ one ‘quick fix’ after another, you’ll send the message that you’re panicking and nothing is working. Once your employees begin to believe that, it’s hard to shake that impression. Some of them will start to doubt your long term plan. Some of them might even consider leaving for pastures new elsewhere. This is why the previous steps are all so important. If you’ve done your research, you’re prepared to be patient, you’ve faced the situation with humility, and you’ve calculated the risks, your decision is made. Now you need to employ all of those qualities at once to see things through to their conclusion. If you’re firm about your approach and you believe in it, that confidence will spread to the people you lead.
Nobody gets it right one hundred percent of the time, and nobody ever will. We all lose our patience occasionally. We’re all guilty of making snap decisions when we should have held our nerve a little longer. That’s part of being human. Keep your worst impulses under control, stick to the values and traits we’ve underlined for you here, and you’ll be on your way to becoming the best leader you can be.