Why don't we need good leaders during an economic downturn?

Isn't it ironic?  It's curious to me.  So many articles, books and leadership pundits write about the need for leaders to adapt quickly, that a leader's change capability is fundamental to success today.  And yet, we can't find the resources for development. The economy takes a downward spiral andleadership development in many organizations is decimated.  There's something wrong with this, in my estimate. I understand that we all need to "tighten our belts" and "flatten our organizations", but don't we need to take a look at making our leaders more effective? More productive? More able to develop their direct reports and other high potential talent?

Leaders today have expanded responsibilities and complexities they never imagined and they need to take charge and adapt fast and furiously. "All this portends a shift to more dynamic management in a more complex and unpredictable environment. The industry leaders of the future—stalwarts and upstarts alike—will be able to adopt, adapt, and build these capabilities for navigating uncertainty." The McKinsey Quarterly This is just as important for senior leaders as for leaders/managers at all levels of the organization.

  • One of the opportunities during a downturn, for example, is that, due to early retirements, layoffs and other systemic economic impacts, there is a distinct opportunity for younger people to take on responsibilities they would not have been able to in the past. They are not able to do this without the needed coaching, feedback and development.
  • Another example, often unspoken during times of intense change, involves even the senior-most and best leaders. When the rules of the road change and are unknown, fear happens.  The most adaptable and emotionally intelligent leaders can turn into reactive and rigid leaders, often feeling paralyzed and unable to address new and difficult situations.

Effective development is not an automatic process. It is a process that needs to be thoughtful, strategic and well planned. But it needs to happen and it needs to happen now.

I will be presenting on this subject for women in October and November, Sustaining the Leadership Journey during Economic Downturns, Check it out.  www.womenatworknetwork.com/index.php?q=membership/.

 And please let me hear from you!!

Barbara Healy