Photo courtesy of Chris Lawton

Leading Effectively in Times of Economic and Social Change

Now that the 2016 Presidential election is over, many companies are sitting on the edge of their seats. With Trump elected, there are naturally going to be changes in the economy (for better or worse, that is yet to be seen), changes in regulations, and changes in the way the U.S. does business. And as I have written before, these cycles of change can make or break leaders and the companies they work in. The mark of a true leader, however, is the way they plan for these cycles of change and how they overcome these obstacles.
 
Planning for the Storm
 
Even in times of calm and semi-normalcy, a great leader knows that there is always another mountain to climb, another problem that will arise. Without this knowledge (or experience), a leader cannot plan appropriately or move his or her company towards growth. If you’re a leader and you can recognize the “calm before the storm,” you’re ten steps ahead of the competition. 
 
Whether it’s planning for instability in the markets after an election, a trade exchange amendment that affects your company’s bottom line, or a major economic downturn like we’ve seen in the past, a worthy executive will have contingencies already in place. During the calmest times, great leadership will:

  • Build up and strengthen the team
  • Create processes and systems that make operations easier
  • Develop a hierarchy, delegations, and support for every person and procedure
  • Focus on the big picture, not the daily battles

In doing so, a leader can create a state of normalcy for his or her company, employees, and him or herself when it comes time to face change or the dreaded unknown. The beauty of these fail-safes is not that they are infallible, but that they remain steady when other things are shaky. These foundations, which can be adapted / changed once a storm has cleared, help your team and your company “weather a storm” while it’s happening. Your organization doesn’t have to experience setbacks or lose profits in light of economic or social change; it can carry on. 
 
Weathering the Storm
 
Encountering change can be scary for anyone, but as an executive leader working in “uncertain times,” the focus must be on the foundations of your company rather than the moving parts. As you’ve effectively put your hierarchies and processes into place, it’s now your job to adapt to new information as it comes in. When it comes to economic, social, and even global shifts, it’s a leader’s job to:

  • Encourage and embody innovation
  • Remain calm and secure
  • Illustrate why adaptation and change can be a good thing

While other companies and leaders haven’t planned for this situation, you have. You can lead through a crisis when you have a strong understanding that not every instance of change is negative and that you can adapt to the new current rather than fighting it. Leadership begins and ends with your ability to adapt to the course you’re on and focusing on what you can control (and knowing what you can’t).
 
Nothing is Permanent
 
“This too shall pass” refers to more than just personal difficulties; it refers to pretty much anything you encounter in your professional and executive life. It is your job, as the leader within your organization, to help your peers and employees focus on which direction to go when outside forces manage to shift your course. 
 
It’s also your duty to show people that change is the only constant in life and business. Whether you’re facing tough economic times, a total overhaul in leadership, or even a period of smooth-sailing, remember: this too shall pass. Should you, as a leader, learn anything, let it be that.