Saying it’s been a tough few years to lead would be an understatement. Navigating Covid-19, transitioning to remote and hybrid work, surviving rampant burnout, and pivoting with economic markets are just a few reasons leaders have been challenged.  

However, right when you think it should be getting easier, fears of global recession and news of massive layoffs at companies like Meta, Salesforce, and Wells Fargo add additional layers of complexity. 

In times like this, people need to sense hope, witness courageous acts, feel encouragement, see sound strategy, and experience elite decision-making. These only happen with excellent leadership. As I tell professionals in our leadership workshops,

Leaders are always needed, especially during challenging times.  

While it might seem like all great leaders have an S on their chest and wear capes, they don’t. They are ordinary people, just like you and me, who choose leadership and receive significant support from others.  

No one except God knows what the future holds for sure. However, there will always be problems to solve, challenges to overcome, and unbroken barriers to break. This is precisely why leaders are needed more than ever and why it’s our job to support those who choose to lead.  

Here are three detailed ways the best companies support leaders during challenging times:

1. Reward and Recognize Their Contributions

Surprisingly, most companies still use financial incentives to motivate their employees to perform. Economists, psychologists, and sociologists have found the more sophisticated and creative a task is, the more counterproductive incentives are. Check out Daniel Pink’s presentation on what motivates us to learn more.  

Effective leadership is a collection of both simple and complex skills that are as much art as science. This means leaders need the opposite of financial incentives to lead their best.  

Effective leadership is a collection of skills that are as much art as science.

Hubert Joly, the former CEO of Best Buy, who led the company in one of the great turnarounds in American business history, wrote in his book The Heart of Business, “If financial incentives do not motivate us personally, why would we think they motivate others? I now believe financial incentives are:

  • Outdated
  • Misguided
  • Potentially dangerous and poisonous
  • Hard to get right in any event

He continued, “Financial incentives are outdated as they were designed for a different type of work.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Joly, we know money is essential to life. So this is not to demonize money. It’s to open eyes to a different type of support leaders need. What leaders need during challenging times is to reward and recognize their contributions. As I wrote in Building the Best, “people have three needs- they need to feel well-liked, important, and appreciated. One way to fill these basic needs is to give authentic praise.”

People require appreciation for what they have done to continue doing more if it in the future.

To adequately support leaders during challenging times, find ways, big or small, to reward and recognize their contributions in ways that go beyond incentives. For example, give them an award, write them a letter, or say “thank you.” 

2. Reinvest In Their Development

Creating time, space, and money for development isn’t easy when things are busy and challenging. However, Starbucks recently opted for a different approach hosting a District Manager Leadership Experience for two days for over 2000+ leaders in person. The theme of the event was taking ownership and being accountable for results. 

Howard Shultz told Starbucks leaders at the event, “The future of Starbucks is sitting in this room. After 51 Years of growth, success is not an entitlement. The future of Starbucks is whether or not we’re going to understand what is at stake. Starbucks is not entitled to our customer’s business, we earn it.” 

Success is not an entitlement. Personal growth is a requirement for future success.

The cost of the event alone would detract from such an event for most companies. Think about 2,000 District Managers’ travel and expenses alone. Not to mention the cost of food, drink, entertainment, venue, outside speakers, and employees’ productivity to be away at training. An educated guess of the cost of the event would be $5-7M. 

However, the education, inspiration, and application from such an event will far outweigh the cost. As Boxer Manny Pacquiao said, “if you work hard in training, the fight will be easy.”

3. Inspire Them With Vision

Vision provides hope. The late great Dr. Myles Munroe used to say, “Vision is the capacity to see beyond what your eyes can see.” While Munroe’s words may sound funny, our eyes are the enemy of a great vision. This is because they are limited to what you can physically take in.  

When times are challenging and we are working in the weeds, it’s hard to look above the clouds and have a vision for a brighter future. Regardless of your role, inspire people going through challenging times with vision of a brighter future. The reason is simple, the future can provide limitless hope, and hope breathes life into people.

The future can provide limitless hope, which breathes life into people.

Talk positively about the future, highlight what’s working, and focus on what great things will happen because of the effort given today. 

Closing

There is nothing easy about leading during challenging times. Recognizing contributions, Investing in Development, and Inspiring with Vision are just a few strategies to support leaders. Replanting core values and giving paid time off are other great tactics.  

Regardless of how you support leaders during challenging times, the key is that you are doing it. Because if there is one thing I know for sure, leaders need help, and no amount of it is too small.  

What are other ways to support leaders during challenging times? Tell me in the comments. Your comment might be highlighted it in an upcoming newsletter.

Free Downloadable Coaching Cheatsheet There is nothing easy about coaching. So we put together a list of eight of the best coaching questions to help you. Download it for free here.

Free Leadership Skill Quiz – Most professionals are confused about why they aren’t progressing in their career. It turns out they are too focused on their technical skills instead of their leadership skills. Enter the SkillsLoft LeaderSkill Quiz. Discover Your leadership skill level in 5 minutes or less.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

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