When things get tight and corporate execs get put to the test, the most natural act is to put the prioirty on “getting on top of your business!!!” Apologetic corporate emails start flowing about how tough times are coming and we need to buckle down. Everyone is clear the real message is “forget about raises, promotions, and bonuses.” An era of micro-management is ushered in as “the most responsible thing to do” when under a crisis.
That’s what it means to “get on top of your business.”
That’s the style of professional managers and operators under crisis. Especially those who have never commanded a team through a crisis.
But there is another way to face a tough challenge.
It’s called – getting in front of your business!
Getting in front of your business is what great leaders do in times of crisis and history is chock full of examples where being in front as the leader was more effective than being on top. General Patton, lead from the front lines in the most intense periods of fighing. While being pressed he outmanuevered Rommel to take the advantage where less aggresive leaders would be trying to preserve diesel and run out the clock.
It is crazy watch the bunker and scrimp mentality take hold when leaders are faced with a great opportunity to lead.
Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase is a lead-from-the-front kind of CEO. While the markets were tanking he was out in front, on the road, making a difference! Check out his video from a few weeks ago Jamie Dimon.
What does it mean to be in front as the leader?
– You, personally, bring value-add to the table for strategic vision.
– You, personally, inspire and encourage those on the front lines vs asking your managers to do it.
– You, personally, communicate the big picture, where things are headed, and how you will navigate the changes.
– You, personnly, set the example by calling clients and customers and secureing new sales and relationships.
It is not about “doing it all” but it is about showing the way and being “in the game” with the organization.
You can’t cost-cut your way to growth. Cost cutting never set a new strategy or created new opportunties. It is not enough to be satisfied cutting cost and sitting on the organziation. Cost cutting is table stakes, everyone has to do it to survive. But when markets get tough it creates enormous opportunity for the swift and agile to acclerate growth opportunties as others retreat. Tough markets can be the juicy markets to grab footholds left open by retreating competitiors.
While your competitors are focused on cost-cutting and “more bricks/less straw” a leader who is at the front will get more external knowledge acquisition faster than one who is preoccupied with internal knowledge acquisiition.
As we potentially enter a second recession, the leaders who can pivot from top-level organizational leaderhsip to front-forward leadership through crisis will be rewarded with a more loyal and committed staff and perhaps breakthrough performance.