9 best leadership tips and tactics for difficult times

In a lot of fields, there's chaos out there.

U.S. economic news is pretty harsh. If you're based here, chances are that the economy is affecting your business; even if only indirectly. If you're not in the US, don't get too smug - sooner or later you're going to feel the effects, too.

By all forecasts this situation isn't likely to get easier before it gets harder. So trying to wait it out or simply "survive" until the next up-trend is not a smart course of action. Great leaders recognize that difficult climates can make a company much better. But what's the best way to use this climate to your advantage and lead successfully through it?

Over the years, I've seen many leaders achieve greatness simply by doing what was needed to help their organizations through difficult situations. It's likely that some the following favorite actions will work in your case:

1. Admit it - when times are tough, the best leaders recognize it and then communicate the reality across the organization. Showing that you see what's going on instills confidence.

2. No White Knight complexes - recognize that you probably don't have all the answers to succeed in every situation. Poor leaders see that as a sign of weakness. They're wrong.

3. What now - engage with your team leaders by asking for ideas for maintaining profits during what could be a lean period. You'll be surprised at how the small savings add up. The good thing about bad economies is that they help you to be more efficient.

4. Cowboy up - act like the leader by discussing how the company will have to operate differently to be successful two years from now. Only focusing on today will result is short term "fixes" which often come back to bite you.

5. Model others - learn from leaders in industries outside of your own. I'm always amazed at how the best always pay close attention to companies in unrelated industries and adapt those actions to their needs.

6. Act fast - knowledge without action is a leadership sin. Enact change quickly while you're still successful. Or else it will be too late.

7. What's the story? - explain the company's changes in a larger context. Stakeholders are more comfortable when something is presented as part of a story line. Show your heart, minimize charts and e-mails, and have in-person meetings which encourage buy-in and participation.

8. Yesterday's news - maintaining what no longer works draws valuable resources away from your priority as a leader - looking after the future of the organization.

9. Report cards - smart leaders communicate progress regularly, brag about successes, and recognize speed bumps. Your team will appreciate and value your openness, becoming even more engaged. A circle of success.

As "the Boss", your actions will be closely watched. Make every one count.


Leadership Coach


John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

It's not enough to be seen to be doing these 9 things, you have to demonstrate that you believe in them. In my company there are two senior managers who between them control 80% of the business. One of them has read the manual on leadership, and does all of the things listed as a box ticking exercise. This manager doesn't really believe in it, and it shows, so consequently many of his his staff have a cynical attitude, and often work to sabotage company wide initiatives (this includes some junior managers). The other manager lives by the principles in this article, and his staff are a rock solid team. Many of those working for the first manager would take a pay cut to switch teams, but attempts to move to fill vacancies are blocked by the first manager. Which manager's team do you think is likely to be the one that saves my company in the coming hard times? This display of integrity makes all the difference when staff are worried about their futures and looking around for guidance.


These are all great actions to do _when_ you have the freedom (read that: managers above you understand what you do...)work with the nine items listed. "Act fast" and "Yesterday's news" struck home as we have a chain of commnad that would embarrass any army in the world, and "Yesterday's news" is a management philosophy around here.


One of my stocks sells for a reduced price and all of my stocks drop in price?Because I divested my company and turned its net worth into stocks I loose everything?No Wall Street---no Great Depression.

Editor's Picks