Last week, we talked with Ray Jackson, leadership consultant and associate dean of the leadership school at Unisys University, who assured us that leading in tough times is no different than leading day to day. The key to leadership, he says, is lowering fear, and connecting with and reaching out to your employees.
When we talk about leading during tough times, it's natural to think that "the leader," the person who needs to spearhead the fear-lowering and communication, is the CxO-level executive leading the turnaround. Surely we other managers and executives aren't as critical, are we?
We are, says Jackson, who says day-to-day managers can be even more important than the CEO because it's those everyday managers who are having the most interaction with the staff. If day-to-day managers seek to lower fear and enhance communication in the organization, they can have as great an impact as the CEO in helping the company boost morale and turn things around.
"If you have a very charismatic leader, it's easy to withdraw and let them carry the leadership," Jackson says. "But an effective organization is about a lot of leaders, not a couple of leaders."
Jackson advises one way to lower fear in an organization is to talk about the "whys."
"Typically in organizations, we talk about the whats and the hows, but the one thing we don't talk about very much are the whys," he says. "For people to have buy in, to support the organization, they really have to understand why everything is being done the way it's being done. Whys are as important - if not more so - in gaining that internal commitment. You can't impose that [commitment], but if you communicate the whys, they'll give it to you."
He adds that communication also promotes a sense of respect and dignity: "People aren't stupid. They can see what's going on."