6.1 Leadership for 2009- Supporting Others
EGL Newsletter Volume 6.1
As we watch the current economic situation and see businesses tightening expense budgets, some people are looking for the most effective ways to lead in these times. There are, of course, many things that one needs to stay aware of to best navigate these times, but one of the most important is to understand how to support the people who are sharing the journey with the leader. People tend to hold on to each other during times of stress, more so than when times are more relaxed.The role of a leader here is crucial.
I often talk about the “emotional leader” in a group, who is very often different than the formal leader. This person provides the signals to the group as to what direction to go. This is a primal function of our brain, and happens whether anyone is aware of it or not. When the group is experiencing fear of any sort, whether it is anxiety, apprehension, or downright panic, the primitive responses are “flight, flight, freeze, or follow”. When the group is experiencing openness, the response is more typically curiosity and engagement. This mental state (self-realization) allows for a much broader range of thinking and is much better at creativity and finding possibilities than the state of fight/flight.
When a group gets into the self-preservation mode of fight/flight, they tend to become adversarial as a predominant behavior, and can often lash out at everything and everybody, simply because they feel threatened and there is no clear enemy.This can result in some really destructive behaviors, and can disrupt business as people alienate their customers, their suppliers, and one another.
The keys for a leader are in understanding that people need to have direction in the storm. They need a heading, a place that they all want to be, and a burning desire to get there. The more turbulent the times, the shorter the time horizon needs to be. When people are working really hard, they don’t want to think that the end is year away. They need months, weeks, or days. This requires an ongoing exercise of setting short courses of action, coupled with optimism, enthusiasm, and commitment from their formal leader. If the established leader of the group can provide these and establish proper rapport with the group, it is very difficult for another person to assume the emotional leadership of the group. So, provide a focus, a compelling reason to be there, stay calm and assertive, and hang together with everyone else. 2009 will be a stellar year. Enjoy the ride.