Archives For Leadership Traits For Toxic Waters


Have you thought about the impact that you, as a leader, have in these toxic waters of economic downturn? Wise leaders are making the changes they need to make now so that they emerge better, stronger, and faster than ever – ready for the growth that will ultimately come. It is absolutely critical for those at the helm to be prepared to inspire and motivate those who remain onboard in order to emerge victorious. So what are some of the most important traits that a great Captain in this epic storm should embrace? Here are some reminders of what is important:

  • Lead By Example: Your people watch everything you do and listen to every word you say – then wait to ensure both are in alignment. The best way to lead and motivate is to be a real example of the way you expect others to behave. Be completely honest and as transparent as possible. Level with people – tell them how you see the current environment, acknowledge the limits of your own understanding, and engage the discussion by asking them for their views. Why? 1) your honesty and humility will breed respect and  2) your openness demonstrates that you walk the talk and 3) it clearly illustrates how together you are more than the sum of the individual parts.
  • Inspire Loyalty: The seas are rough, the water is toxic, and people fear being thrown overboard more than ever. It’s critical that they truly believe that you are on their side and supporting them. Create a vision that will make your teams see possibility and generate creative ideas. Inspire them to focus on the new priorities by doing so yourself – fearlessly. Engage decisions and projects that will produce incremental success so that people can visibly and viably see progress. Why? Because people need hope and they need to see progress – you can give them both and they will reward you with their loyalty. The more clear and vivid you can communicate a vision, the more your teams are bought into you and what may seem an impossible future  – show them the finish line and they will put up the sails and catch the wind.
  • Demonstrate A Real-Time Connection To Reality: Although today reality is a moving target, continuously monitoring the changing environment through ground-level intelligence can provide a realistic map to plot your way forward. Partnering to pool information across functions, or geographical boundaries, can provide useful insights and build camaraderie. As an added bonus, as you continue to gather information, the picture will change to reveal new opportunities or threats that can be proactively addressed. While the first order of a realistic assessment is to understand and accept the magnitude of the challenge, the fact is that there are few problems that can not be solved by engaged, active minds working together. Focus people on what is realistically possible, rather than what is not, and facilitate them searching for solutions that will move the organization forward.  As a leader, it is your responsibility to drive positive performance by transforming fear into action.
  • Manage With Intensity – Embrace Empowerment: Always remember to balance intensity with empowerment. Provide the training, resources and support your people need to do their jobs, but don’t micro-manage. It shows you don’t have faith in your people and demonstrates explicitly that you do not trust them. Tipping the scales back the other way, in difficult times your hands-on participation is essential. As you support people in doing their jobs, openly share and discuss information and ideas, and consistently act with the speed and intensity required in a volatile environment. You need to be intensely interactive  – listening, explaining, answering questions, pushing conversations to higher levels – and then doing it all again. People will be inspired by your intensity and involvement – not to mention seeing firsthand how you put reality on deck and engage them in a plan to address it decisively, as a team.

Facing the reality of surviving the current storm, while preparing for the long term effects of the toxicity,  requires a leader to constantly adjust – “X” no longer marks the spot.  Those leaders who look ahead, anticipate what’s coming,  and act decisively to adjust to an ever-changing reality will survive. Those leaders who lead by example, inspire loyalty, engage their teams, demonstrate a real-time connection to reality, and manage with intensity while embracing empowerment will not only survive the toxic waters – they will thrive in the new reality.

Please engage the discussion and let us know what traits you rely on to motivate and incite every person to think through and act on sustaining the organization. Please feel free to contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back next week for the next post on Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.