Ram Charan,guru and author of Execution, offers what he calls the essential qualities leaders have to possess in hard times:
1. Honesty. This ain’t easy, especially when the wind is constantly shifting. “How can you tell people what you believe,” he asks, “when you can’t be confident that it is right?”
Answer: Give your best understanding of the situation, ask for theirs and calculate the probabilities together.
2. Inspiration. A financial tsunami destroyed employees’ hard-earned savings and put their jobs and futures at risk. They are wary. Work with your direct reports to rebuild a vision.
3. Connection with reality. Put all your concrete, external information on the table—however awful—and open the floor for discussion.
4. Realism tinged with optimism. While few problems are insoluble, it may be hard to see that right now. And it’s also true that pure pessimism leads straight down. Your challenge is to handle bad news with just enough optimism to avoid looking like a fool.
5. Intensity. Only through deep personal involvement will you get the ground-level intelligence and speed required in times like this. Your people need your presence. Translated: Golf course, no. Exercise and sleep, yes.
6. Planning. In an immediate crisis, it’s tempting to quit thinking about the future. That would be a mistake. Find your bearings, gather your wits, break out of the collective myopia and place a few bets.
— Adapted from Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty, Ram Charan, McGraw-Hill.