Leading in Difficult Times

I was talking to a friend the other day and we were reminiscing about a business we worked at that went through a really rough period. Market demand had dropped, orders were down, margins were being squeezed, and we had a new business system that limited our view of the situation.

He mentioned something that really struck me.

He said, “I’m glad we went through that time because it made me a much better leader.

He’s right.

Leading during difficult times takes everything you have but the truth is, you will be better off because of the experience.

Having led both military and business organizations through some pretty difficult periods, I’m convinced that tough times make you a better leader.

Tough times make you a better leader Click To Tweet

Let me suggest five reasons why:

Tough times require you to operate at your highest level. When the seas are calm and the weather is nice, you don’t have to be at the top of your game. But tough times require an intense, 24/7 focus on the problem. As a leader, everyone in the organization is watching you and depending on you to make the right decisions to lead them out of the situation. It requires focus, determination, decisiveness, courage, intensity, and perseverance. It will take your absolute best.

You learn a lot about yourself during tough times. The challenge of leading during difficult times is learning to deal with those voices of self-doubt, fear, and worry while your team is depending on you for confidence and strength. Tough times are the ultimate test of a leader’s character and resolve. There is nothing that will boost confidence more than facing the toughest challenge in your career and coming out on top.

Tough times are the ultimate test of a leader’s character and resolve. Click To Tweet

You build strong bonds with your team during tough times. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with your team through a crisis, you build a bond that can last a lifetime. When a leader and a team step up and work together through a tough situation, it builds a powerful new level of trust and respect. The overall capability of the organization is forever enhanced through this experience.

Tough times give you a new perspective. Your perspective forever changes from having withstood a difficult period. You have a much greater appreciation for when times are good. You also are less likely to let people, politics, and minor issues get you down. Tough times help build your maturity as a leader.

Your perspective forever changes from having withstood a difficult period. Click To Tweet

Tough times become an anchor point for the rest of your career. Great leaders can almost always point to a time in their careers when they became great. In most cases, it was leading an organization through a tough situation. The most difficult situation you face may actually be the defining moment in your career.

Most of us don’t want to go through difficult times. It’s human nature to want things to be easy. The problem is when things are easy and you aren’t challenged, you don’t grow. 

Confidence and maturity as a leader come from dealing with your self-doubt and fears while overcoming adversity.

So, instead of complaining or worrying about the current COVID-19 pandemic, why not try to celebrate these tough days?

Yes, the times are hard. But this may be the best thing that ever happened to you as a leader!

I’ve been covering the issue of leading in a crisis daily on my Twitter account, so make sure to follow me and add your thoughts to this conversation.

Deep Leadership Podcast

Also, listen to my interview with Monty Granger on my podcast. Monty is a retired Army Major who was called into action to set up the Army medical facilities at Guantanamo Bay right after 9/11. He knows what it means to lead through a crisis.




(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

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