To say we live in trying and difficult times as business executives and directors would be a wild understatement.
Financial, social and political challenges and changes have never been more clustered. Technology is advancing at breakneck speed. And add to that the heightened national security risks.
Dealing with pressure is now an integral part of leadership – if anyone can say they had a “quiet day at the office” we salute you. The question is, how can heads of business adapt their leadership styles and skills to ensure that pressure is manageable, and companies thrive in difficult times?
How pressure can manifest in leadership
Certain leadership traits can appear when a company finds itself in a negative or threatening situation.
Those at the head of the organisation can start to show resentment and impatience, with staff and fellow executives, and a blame culture can distract from problem solving and positive progression. Arrogance can also creep in – a protection mechanism from some people to distance themselves from the insidious issues.
Leaders sometimes take a highly defence position, withdrawing and avoiding, only giving out information they deem is pertinent. You may even spot this amongst colleagues who use humour to deflect.
Those who lead from an authoritative stance can easily step over the line into being controlling, micromanaging and even “attacking” those who fall short of high standards.
So what styles can help underpin strong and fruitful leadership under pressure?
Previous generations – who favoured the “rottweiler” style of leadership – may have mocked this particular attribute. But these days there is a better appreciation of how important soft skills are in bringing out the best in others. Communicate leadership by example and by positive affirmation. Identify and respond to the needs of others in your company’s hierarchy in order to be sure where you lead, they follow.
Emotional intelligence, according to Psychology Today is: “The ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.”
Your team reflect back what you transmit. If you display confidence, passion, pride and team spirit, that’s what you get back.
Clearly if you can’t control your own negative emotions – particularly if you create a “culture of blame” when things go wrong – you may find your team less than willing to “go the extra mile” for your company or use any of their own intuitive.
Do you lead from the front, or by putting yourself shoulder to shoulder with your employees?
Author Daniel Goleman explained: “Leadership is not domination. It’s the art of persuading people to work towards a common goal.”
A leader who is proficient in negotiation and conflict resolution, who is a source of inspiration for staff, is unlikely to be one whose office is impenetrable or who is constantly absent.
Having a visible presence may seem unprofitable in relation to investing the same time in chasing revenue. But some of the UK’s most successful leaders are those who have earned respect at all levels of their company, not just from their accountants.
Calm, cool but “connected” – that expression covers the core of business leadership in times of pressure.