Leadership Lessons to Live By: Four Qualities You Need to Lead through the Tough Times

Here’s a fact of life:  Tough times will come. Deal with it. “BUT HOW?!” you ask. Good question. If you have any spiritual insight and appreciation, you’ve probably already come up with the right answers. Prayer. Grace. Dependence upon God. Trust. Faith. Courage. Boldness. Etc. These are the exact answers that you should give, because that’s what the Bible teaches. As a leader, you should combine these theological realities with commonsense leadership qualities. Here are four simple qualities to cultivate in order to make it through the hard times.
  1. Grit. Grit is nothing more than raw, unadorned, unflattering toughness. There’s no glory in grit. It’s ugly, sweaty, and irritable. In the crucible of a crisis, grit is the quality that makes all the difference. Grit helps you stay calm. It helps you stay rock steady. The tough times will really test your leadership ability. If you lack grit, you lack leadership. Thankfully, grit can be learned. You don’t gain grit by reading self-help books. (I checked, and didn’t find any on Amazon.) You gain grit by going through the tough time.
  2. Creative problem solving. A tough time is a problem. Problems demand solutions. You’re the leader, so you’re responsible for leading the problem solving. If you understand problem solving, the whole process becomes easier — maybe even fun. Follow these five steps:  1) Realize you’ve got a problem. 2) Try to understand the nature of the problem. 3) Get all the tools and information you might need to solve the problem, including people, research, resources, etc. 4) Plan your solution and put it into action. 5) Take a look and see if it worked. If it didn’t work, start over at step one. Problem-solving seems straightforward, but each step of the way requires creativity. Those five steps sound a bit textbooky and bland. In reality, problem solving is anything but a textbook experience. In order to forge through the hard times, you’ve got to develop that snap for creatively solving problems, not just following the steps in a textbook. It pays off.
  3. Optimism. We’ve been drenched in the rhetoric that an optimist is just a happy but clueless person. The happy part is fine. The clueless thing is not. Optimism is much more, and it’s an essential quality for any leader who wants to get through the tough times with all of his or her limbs intact. Let’s unpack this optimism thing so we can get away from the happy-go-lucky caricature. Optimism is confidence — not just giggly hope plastered with a smile. Confidence may not have a smiley-face, but it has the steely-eyed determination that a solution is forthcoming. Optimism is also a decision. Optimistic leaders decide that success is in the offing. That’s something to smile about, sure, but for the here-and-now, it takes some grit. Optimism sees through the tough time and into the success of the future. Optimism also recognizes the blessing of the trial. Nobody looks for trials, but nearly everyone looks back at the trial and realizes that they grew, and matured, and somehow profited from it.
  4. Compassion. Leading, by its very nature, is about more than yourself. If you expect to be an effective leader when the going gets tough, you’ve got to keep your eye on your people. They are going through the tough time, too. Empathize with them. Listen to them. Understand them. In a word, have compassion on them. This is exactly how Jesus viewed his followers (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32). Action must always follow compassion. Compassion isn’t a feeling. It’s a doing. You’ll make it through the tough time if you have compassion. If you don’t, someone will fall apart along the way.

If you haven’t experienced tough times in leadership or life, you will. When the times come, cling to the bedrock of theological truths. These will stabilize and guide you. At the same time, hone your leadership ability through the tough times by growing your grit, problem-solving skills, optimism, and compassion.

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  • Reply chineta May 3, 2012 at 3:48 am

    Great information and timely as well

  • Reply parkecountygirl May 3, 2012 at 5:58 am

    How do you become a leader when you have been forced into it? My spiritual gifts are not in the leadership area, but because of employee layoffs, I now have a leadership position that I did not seek. I’m now under a lot of pressure and much is expected of me. I want to glorify God in my actions and set a good example, but I am not “naturally” gifted to be a leader. What are some good resources to study while I am learning?

    • Reply ccgomez4 May 3, 2012 at 6:52 am

      @Parkecountrygirl.. I’ve been in your shoes before. I’m naturally not a gifted leader, but by the grace of God years later I am being molded into this leader that, even now, I am amazed at how far I have come. Continue to pray and seek His strength.

      This article was very insightful. Find leadership books that call to you. John C. Maxwell’s books are very insightful. Don’t put yourself in the mindset that you can’t. With God all things are possible.

      • Reply parkecountygirl May 3, 2012 at 10:10 am

        ccgomez4 – thank you for your reply. I’ll check out those books right away! God bless!

    • Reply Robin Forrester May 3, 2012 at 11:15 am

      Bless you, you have already started right – you’ve asked others for help! Second, it may help to know that most people are ‘thrown in at the deep end’! Third, it’s not really about spiritual gifts, or spiritual gifts alone, its about experience and skills that you use in other areas of life e.g. you already have planning skills and experience – otherwise how do you get up and go to work? How did you get to send this message? Fourth, often people get into these situations because a kind of law works that when others are taken out in some way, there is an unconscious recognition that the one(s) left have the ability to do what’s needed. AND, to be practical: 1. The Lord is with his people to the end of the age – if you are saved He is with you – you are not alone. 2. Continue asking for help – instead of thinking you need to start barking out orders or knowing everything – say to those who are left ‘I’m making up my mind what to do – please help me by saying what you think’ (you retain leadership but ask for help – others love to help – and remember Jesus at the well – would you get me a drink please?). 3. Expect to make some mistakes – even CEOs of multinational companies expect to only get 1 out of 3 decisions right. Don’t beat yourself up when it happens – just shrug your shoulders and think – I did my best, and I’ll try again. 4. Watch what’s going on. 5. Don’t read loads of books – they’ll drive you crazy – though ‘One minute manager’ is quite good if you can get it. 6. Leading is fun. (I was thrown into leadership at 18 at church and work, ended up as a government advisor, so that brief summary above is based upon sympathy (I’ve been there) and encouragement (who knows where it might take you?!)

    • Reply carl May 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm

      get the book the way of the shepherd it is an amazing book about leadership it really gave me good sound leadership direction in a time needed

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