Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Crisis = Danger + Opportunity

Ram Charan in his extremely thoughtful book, Leadership In The Era of Economic Uncertainity: The New Rules for Getting the Right Things Done in Difficult Times, McGraw Hill 2009, writes “The immensity of the challenge confronting CEOs in this era of extraordinary uncertainty and volatility is that everyone is looking to them not only for reassurance but also for specific direction. The question on many minds is simple but scary: Are we going to make it? That is followed by an equally simple question: What do I have to do? The CEO has to provide reassurance as well as guidance to everyone in the company.”

As he continues, “When we think about the CEO’s job, it is helpful to divide it into two realms: leadership and operations. The first is about inspiring and motivating people to go beyond their fears and painting a believable future that is waiting after the storm. The second is about the daily nitty-gritty of doing business successfully in a very tough and unpredictable environment.”

In Chinese calligraphy, the word “crisis” is the combination of two words, namely “danger” and “opportunity.” Right now given what is happening at the international, Federal and state levels of our society, there is much danger and much opportunity. And if you are a CEO, a divisional President, a unit manager or a front line supervisor, the need to provide motivation and a clear picture of a believable future is growing every day. Furthermore, there is an intense day to day operational pressure to be effective and thrifty. Resource management now is as important as strategic direction given all that is happening in the world.

In a couple of hours, I will begin teaching the 2011 From Vision to Action Leadership Training, a year long course on leadership, strategic planning and execution plus organizational change. Those coming will engage with me and each other over the course of 2011 to explore new ways to lead through this current uncertainty and volatility. We will “recognize reality,” using a Charan term from the above book, and simultaneously learn new perspectives about how to move through the complexities of strategic and organizational change. We will understand the dangers and discover the opportunities of being a leader.

The aforementioned simple questions, “Are we going to make it?” and “What do I have to do?”, will not go away any time soon. Instead, the questions will come up often and they will need to be addressed in a thoughtful and effective manner. After decades of doing this work and many opportunities to interact with dynamic and bold leaders, I know this morning that we will make it through these difficult times, and, with grace, patience, and good fortune, we can transform ourselves and our companies into something better than what they are today. The first step in this journey begins when we choose to be a better leader today than we were yesterday.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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