Leading with Purpose & Agility


The Dow dipped below 7,000 points and business owners found themselves taking another deep sigh.  How far will it drop?  When will we bottom out?   Will we need to cut even more?  Nobody knows.

Our president has recently been projecting a sense of urgency and optimism.  He’s following through on priorities and initiating conversations with his key stakeholders.  While I have differences of opinion with his strategy, he’s demonstrating strategic purpose and leadership agility that many of us should learn from.

How would those around you describe your leadership presence over the past few months?

  • Are you slipping back into the office more frequently or engaging your board, key customers and stakeholders in dialogue? 
  • Are you focused on dealing with and putting out fires, or stepping back and asking what is important to consider adapting?
  •  Are your decisions leading to slashing across the board, or carefully assessing what you stop, delay or alter?
  • Are you carrying the weight of the times on your shoulders, or asking for help from those around you to pay to manage, think and lead?

Why does it matter?   When things are moving along smoothly and the economy is humming, others are less observant of leadership and more wrapped up in their work.  In times like this, you are on the stage, being observed by all.  How you proceed and lead through these challenging times will be remembered as organizational folklore.

So, how you engage and lead others through difficult circumstances is not only filled with challenge, but opportunity as well.  Consider the following actions as you add new chapters to your leadership story.

Engage your management team in planning & decision-making.  Do not accept the burden of leadership on your own.  The situation is too critical for any one person to accept.  In addition, you pay the team around you to manage and lead.   Ask them to step up and stay with you.

Schedule time to make the rounds and meet with others.  People around you need opportunities to interact with you and observe your confidence.  They need to see your leadership presence, and have you listen and connect with their concerns.  In addition to walk-a-rounds, I’d also schedule periodic employee meetings where you can listen and inform.

Break down organizational silos and boundaries with your actions.  No one person or department will be able to create lasting solutions.  Organizational leaders who work through dilemmas together will achieve more, and build a sense of shared purpose that will difficult to compete against.

Invite others input, summarize your understanding and be decisive when called upon.  There are times to be decisive and times to listen.  Involvement of others comes at the front-end of the process.  Above all, it’s important to have a shared understanding of the issue at hand, to invite and listen to other perspectives, and to make decisions when needed. 

Balance the urgency of moving through issues and decisions with the need to keep your eye on the organization culture you are looking to create.  Leaders often focus on the challenge of the day and act decisively in its resolution.  What we need to remember is that while we need to be decisive, we also need to remember that our collective actions create the organizational culture for the organization.  If our responses are all short-term, filled with stress and negative emotion, we are only succeeding in the short term.  Leverage the opportunity!