As an entrepreneur, leadership comes naturally when things are going well. Yet keeping up that leadership up when you and your business are facing adversity is another story; it can be easy to lose your cool and fall back to no-risk strategies, neither of which are conducive to long-term success. I recently came across an article that discusses the concept of “strategic empathy”, as defined by seasoned CEO Richard Lindenmuth as a type of leadership strategy that sincerely focuses on the individual with the big picture of the business as well. Here is what he says are the main tenets of this:
Expect and properly deal with anxiety: When things aren’t going well, and/or the future remains ambiguous, people on your team will be scared and angry. Therefore, you need to act quickly to communicate strategy, be calm and stand up to outliers before that negative outlook defines the entire team.
Listen to team input: No leader wants to hear negative views, but it’s important to show empathy and reach everyone on an emotional level while also containing your own emotions. People need to know that it’s safe to express their opinions; once you get beyond the negatives, you’ll find that most people have real contributions.
Focus on team members who tell it like it is: You’ll find people in any organization who will tell you what you want to hear or are fighting for their own survival. Although you need to listen at every level, good leaders look carefully for that middle ground or middle manager that can see the big picture.
Don’t send a representative in lieu of direct contact: A lack of physical presence is viewed as a lack of leadership. Direct contact to people at entry level is the best way to generate their trust, support, respect and action. If you assume that you can deliver a message once and then have subordinates pass it down, then that’s a recipe for failure.
Fix something if it’s broken: Decisive action inspires confidence; people’s perception of your leadership is related to your word-action alignment and behavioral integrity. Show the people under you what you expect, and they’ll follow your example. A business will prosper if everybody is confidently fixing problems.
Everyone has to pull their weight: Create an environment that encourages and rewards participation and progress without penalties for missteps. Define a common goal and eliminate any contention between different groups.
Eight out of ten: As a general rule, eight out of ten ideas aren’t usable, but that’s why you need to figure out the good ideas. Therefore, welcome all suggestions and encourage every attempt, which in turn will encourage more ideas. This is also called the “Pareto principle”, where 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the efforts.