Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leadership as a source of calm and stability at the center

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 2, 2013

Every business, and certainly every business that operates in a fast-paced and competitive industry and marketplace faces an ongoing onslaught of change, challenge and uncertainty. And this is can be experienced first-hand and with immediate impact by essentially any of the members of the organization, from owners and executive managers on down to hands-on employees with no direct managerial responsibilities.

I have written a number of times in the course of developing this blog, about leadership and about what goes into being an effective and even inspiring leader (see, for example, any of my postings with the word “leadership” in their titles at Business Strategy and Operations or its Part 2 continuation page, or at my HR and Personnel directory.) I turn back to this basic, fundamental side of business organization and management here too, where I specifically address the challenges of leadership in the face of stress and challenge.

• You are the owner, the chief executive officer or both of a business with a headcount of employees who report to you, directly, indirectly or both and you run a very fast-paced business in a very dynamic industry and volatile marketplace. If you want to understand the role that stress and uncertainty play in your business:
• Start by addressing uncertainty and stress from the perspective of others in your overall organization as they see and understand it and as they are challenged by it.
• Start by asking about and thinking about the challenges that they face in this, which might be very different and both in priority and detail from what you see and face. And understand that these challenges can at times be greatest for lower level employees on the table of organization as they deal directly with customers and suppliers and with fellow employees and they see and experience first-hand all of the friction points that can arise, but without any managerial voice that would empower then to change anything.

Your employees, and here I include everyone who works under you on your table of organization, have to perform and even excel in achieving their work goals and priorities:

• In the face of workload and schedule demands and the pressures they create, and even when they have to meet their goals in the face of resource availability challenges and bottlenecks,
• In the face of conflict and disagreement in the workplace and the stress that can engender,
• In the face of change, both internal and external to the organization and the challenges that brings.
• Bottom line, the work of the business still has to get done if it is to remain viable and competitive.

One of the core requirements of effective leadership can be found in its capacity to create a sense of calmness in the center, in the face of challenges that would disturb and create tension and discord. Effective leaders cannot necessarily make instabilities and uncertainties and their causes go away, but they can and do help the people who they work with, to more effectively work and work together in the face of all of this.

• Things tried, and particularly new ones do not always work; taking the risk to innovatively succeed means allowing for failure as well as success.
• Mistakes can happen in what should be standard operating procedures too and both for reasons internal to the organization and as a result of external, outside problems and complications that can intervene in what should be business as usual success.
• People often have to make decisions absent all of the information that they would want and the results of those decisions might be very good, or they might be much less so.
• Needs and priorities and required goals can change and late in a business process or during a time-sensitive customer fulfillment, and all of this can all lead to concern, anxiety and a loss of perceived stability too.
• Effective leaders bring their employees together in the face of all of these events as they arise, and effective leaders bring their people together to find and create the best possible outcomes out of all of this challenge.
• They are calm and show stability from their words and actions, and they strive to share this resource in others as well.
• Then when the dust settles from a problem or dislocation they work with their teams to develop lessons learned and new practices and processes for moving forward.

I have noted a fairly extensive list of traits, qualities and actions in this blog that an effective leader displays and promotes, but bottom line, leadership becomes most critically important when the organization being led is under challenge and its employees and the members of its community are too. When it is business as usual is not enough and real leadership has to step forward. This posting is about building an environment where that is possible, and where little disruptions cannot simply grow.

You can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations and its Part 2 continuation page.

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