I Used to Rule the World: Leading in Challenging Times

Bob Rosner
Posted: Jun 29, 2015 12:01 AM

Leadership is always difficult, but our current roller coaster economy can make it seem downright impossible. Which reminds me of a conversation with my daughter Frankie in 2009, when she was 5. She said, "An evil stepmother can kill the queen." This didn't sound like something she'd come up with on her own, so I asked her where she'd heard it. She replied, "It was in a movie." "What movie?" I asked. "It's a Barbie movie, coming soon, in the spring of 2007," she answered.

Who knew that my kid has such encyclopedic knowledge of DVD trailers beyond their sell-by date? Unfortunately, she is not alone; far too many leaders are living in the past -- trying to simply dredge up old solutions for tackling today's challenges. Our current economy is unlike anything most of us have seen before -- up one minute, down the next -- so we have to explore new strategies. That's why I've listed three Do's and one Don't below for leading more effectively in troubled times. For more ideas, check out "The Taboos of Leadership" by Anthony Smith (Wiley, 2007).

-- DO see it from their point of view. I've learned that the most effective leaders are often the most empathetic leaders. The days of "drop down and give me 20" bosses are behind us. To really motivate people today, you've got to understand where they are coming from and gain insight into their fears and motivations. Listen to your people, what they care about and where they're headed and you'll be much more successful.

-- DO over-communicate. Fear creates a place where rumors can spread like wildfire. I've seen many offices paralyzed for days over a piece of news from the rumor mill that turned out to be false. That's why it's so important to go out of your way to over-inform and over-communicate with your people about everything you know.

-- DO celebrate. There is more than enough bad news out there. It can drain the life force of even the most optimistic person. That's why it's so important to celebrate regularly. I'm talking about a simple "atta boy" or "atta girl," a surprise pizza party or giving an unannounced afternoon off for a job well done. Be the kind of leader that people actually want to work for. Remember, to get loyalty, you have to give it.

-- DON'T expect your people to be blind. I once got an email from a bookkeeper for a doctor's office. She said that her boss told her he didn't have the money to give her a raise. She wrote, "I take care of his money. I know about his boats, his vacations and exactly how much money is in the business's bank account." As a leader you need to understand that your people watch you, they talk about you and they know more about you than you realize.

Follow these tips and your people won't want to kill the queen or the king at work; they'll be watching your back instead.


-- DO see it from their point of view.

-- DO over-communicate.

-- DO celebrate.

-- DON'T expect your people to be blind.


From John Templeton Foundation

Keeping Thanksgiving Going: Surprising Stats About Gratitude

-- Fewer than 50 percent of people say that they're likely to thank salespeople, mail carriers, cleaning crews, etc.

-- 15 percent actually show daily gratitude to friends or colleagues.

-- 74 percent of employees never or rarely express gratitude to their boss.

-- 70 percent said they'd feel better if their boss was more grateful.


"So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work." -- Peter Drucker