Riddell: Leading from the front (column)
It is unfortunate, but sooner or later every manager has to deal with a significant business disappointment. How this disappointment is handled becomes a direct reflection of individual leadership and has tremendous impact on the opportunity for personal and professional success.
So often business rejections, whether in the form of a lost order or a valuable employee leaving, are genuinely felt by most dedicated managers on a personal level. For entrepreneurial managers and owners that give their full commitment to their companies, this personal identification is understandable, even desirable. Some might even say that it is a requirement for sustainable success. What some fail to realize, however, is that they are probably not the only ones who are also experiencing an emotional letdown in the face of the commercial disappointment. Good companies are populated by good employees and these committed employees share in the disappointment. Herein resides the great opportunity for focused leadership.
Great leaders have the ability to empathize with the disappointment of their associates but, most importantly, they feel a responsibility to put into motion something to change the settling malaise. While cheerleading may be too strong a term, certainly an element of positive communications focusing on opportunities and controllable activities can emotionally guide people away from the history that cannot be undone. Often this verbal painting of a better tomorrow is supported with some concrete and novel “call to arms,” a recognized and significant break from the “business as usual” pattern. Proactive challenges appealing to people’s competitive spirit with definitive dates force individuals to move out of the self pity mode and into the “positively focused on the next opportunity” mode. Successful business leaders lead “from the front.”
Entrepreneurial leaders recognize that they have the personal responsibility to provide this catalytical energy to start this organizational healing or recovery process. They also recognize that this is a difficult challenge and one in which that they most likely cannot succeed unless they themselves truly believe in the solution. So their first step has to be getting themselves in the proper frame of mind, getting their psyches wrapped around the controllables. Only then can they commit themselves wholeheartedly to the task of recovery. Along these same lines, these leaders know that anything short of their total and complete commitment will be sensed by their organization and any request for employee refocus or rededication will be rather hallow.
Many would say that this mindset is difficult if not impossible to achieve. And they would be correct given that their perspective is not one of leadership. For the minority of those who see their daily main business function as starting and ending with leadership, nothing could be further from the truth.
Many people forget or overlook the fact that failure is a component of success. Contrary to the false security being voiced by some in the political world, in our competitive commercial world, risk taking is a requirement. As with all risks, some succeed, some do not. Most anyone can handle success. It is the true leader, however, who positively and proactively handles the failure and uses it as an effective springboard for even greater accomplishments.
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