Leadership in the New Year
Moving into 2023 will not be easy. The earth and its people are still fragile. The pandemic energy crisis, war, recession, refugee migration, climate change, and unemployment are highly stressful things your employees and customers will face. Governments will have to prioritize people and their well-being and still dig deep into pockets to find resources for the long term. So expect more regulations and taxes.
Meanwhile, those with jobs will struggle with work-life balance (if there is such a thing) and their personal finances as inflation and recession threaten to hit.
What can a leader do in such an uncertain situation?
1. Be Kind: Take time to put yourself in another’s shoes. Too often, money gets prioritized for the wrong reasons and costs more resources than the company can handle, almost like a domino effect. Understand the person (not people, plural) and the context before making judgements. This advice is key to building great teams. In fact a study run by Google on great team highlighted the importance of psychological safety rather than experience.
If you have a soul and a moral compass, be kind to yourself. Sometimes we do our best in 24 hours, and still, we don't know everything. If you think you have a soul and moral consciousness – ask others. If the majority of the people (not the yes people you surround yourself with who will leave you when the writing is on the wall) think you have areas to improve – that should be something you seriously consider.
2. Make Time to Recharge: This is a tough one. Disconnect from others (online and offline) and spend time with yourself. Get to know YOU and listen to your heart, mind, and body. You can only lead wisely if you are sound of health and can handle the stress. Find a strong number two employee, and do not hesitate to delegate less important things.
3. Make decisions that prioritize people and the planet, and the profits will come: Stop promising investors and the board the impossible numbers – it only puts a strain on others. Start to think more realistically about what is achievable while prioritizing people and the planet. The money will come. I know this is possible because I built several product lines up from scratch. Challenging but possible and, in the long term, better for all.
4. Be unafraid to tell the truth: It is all the rage to spin stories, but they have a way of catching up. Honesty is what a fearless leaders embrace. You can be honest but not brutal (see point 1). Honesty shows up when you stand up for your people – when you can separate facts from fiction – when you don't fudge the numbers – when you stand by your word. Years back, I was fortunate to interview a CEO who built a Fortune 500 company. He did this by “walking the talk” and investing in people. That was the key to his success.
5. Save for a rainy day: As a leader, you need to save for a rainy day (no, I am not talking of your stock options or your severance bonus) but your company reputation, your people resources, and your company financial resources (reserves). These savings help you outlast the brash and foolish show-offs because you saved for what matters – your talent and reputation. Those companies that survive a crisis do so because of their people and good reputation. The strategy does not write itself, nor can AI do that – it is the people who do that!
What will be your legacy? Will each employee, supplier, distributer, user of your product say you made a positive difference in their life? When you disappoint – how can you leverage the situation for the better?
So, in short, going into 2023, commit that your leadership is people and planet-centric. We are building for a better tomorrow and preserving and multiplying the resources we have today for the next generation.