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This is Part 1 of my Lecture series on Leadership


Too often in times of turbulence the temptation is to “batten down the hatches” and seek safety by focusing on what can be controlled. Typically that means turning inward and acting “defensively” to avoid damage and minimize risk. Caution and prudence, like most other leadership behaviors, are useful only in conjunction with the exercise of good judgment. In stressful circumstances, leaders need to remember that not all risks are bad, not all opportunities for growth disappear, and a broad, externally-focused perspective is more important than ever.

Turbulent times are here to stay. The credit crunch is today’s current dramatic headline, but accelerating change and economic uncertainty are the hallmarks of 21st century business. The volatility of commodity prices for example, especially oil, and fluctuations in currencies are all part of a broader weather system affecting business everywhere. These powerful forces for change are the corporate equivalent of headwinds, something which must be faced and navigated by all leaders and those they lead. The leadership challenge of the next few years is learning to fly with turbulence.

A Headwind is defined as: “A wind blowing directly against the course of moving object, especially an aircraft or ship”. The reality is simple: the headwinds are here to stay. And the headwinds are unrelenting. The leadership challenge of the few years is learning to fly with such all-embracing turbulence.

It’s a bit like trying to fly through a hurricane. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a light aircraft or a Boeing 787 Dream-liner, staying on course in a headwind is tough. What the pilots realize is that you need to know how to read your leadership instruments and change course sometimes to make headway. Sometimes, too, you need to know when to put the plane down on the nearest piece of flat land and sit out of the storm.

Leading in turbulent times also depend on the 3Cs of Credit, Commodities and Confidence, weather patterns have shifted from high growth to high risk.