See the Good in the Bad

Bob Loffreda & George Gercken

This year is different, but people say that every year. Whether it was 9/11, the Iraq war, or the boom cycle we've experienced, every year presents leaders with difficulties and opportunities they've likely not seen before.
Yes, but this year is different, at least in our recent memories. The suddenness of the business climate decline is significant and concerning. It can drive panic reactions on the part of many. Their first impulse may be to cut and run, downsize, pull away before they have taken the time to see the larger picture and the always present opportunities that exist.
So, our New Year's Message is about authentic leadership. It's the kind that blends courage; foresight and the ability to act versus simply react. The pressure to take immediate action is everywhere. Because of the overwhelming amount of information at our fingertips we can be coerced into reacting. We see our stocks plunge almost real time and have government employment statistics at our fingertips. This can become an overwhelming tide of data that may have small strategic significance.
Real leaders versus those that have the title "leader" are adept at keeping their head when all others are losing theirs. They are not simply accountants, engineers, salespeople, marketing individuals or human resource types; they actively work to transcend their station to understand their responsibility is to run the entire business. They keep everything in perspective and always work at longer-term solutions. Meaning, they see the good in the bad, the opportunity to take market share when their less professional competition are simply cutting heads.
Competent leaders are effective at managing themselves around panic mode actions and reactions of others. They recognize that they have an important part to play and simply buying into the game "ain't it awful" has no part in their efforts. That also means it's typically pretty lonely at the top because the herd mentality is everywhere. The naysayers, the pundits, were all sure that oil was going to $200 a barrel. That's really not the issue for a real leader. It has to do with vision-into-action. The show-versus-go types often speak of "vision" but they're really referring to slogans, a sort of internal huckster-ish advertising that has no "meat", but sure looks good hanging on the wall. Leaders know that well thought through, forward-looking action is everything for their organization. That of course means risk, and competent leaders know that this is part of their duty and responsibility also.
2009 is before us, but not necessarily looming before us. Your ability as a leader to genuinely project and act in accordance with solid long-term thinking is everything just now. There will be opportunities, there will be challenges, and, yes, there is no law that says your organization must exist. Your capacity to act without panic and to see the good in the bad is our message and wish for you in the New Year.