We’ve all been through rough spots in our lives and businesses, times when nothing seemed to be going right. The tricky thing is that these occurrences never seem to come with any warning. Recently, my own family went through a series of small catastrophes, and while the experience was certainly not pleasant, it taught me a few things about leadership that I’ve found can make a big difference and I will continue to apply throughout my life.
Leadership is more than just being in charge of a business. It’s something everyone does on a daily basis in the way they interact with people and even with themselves. It’s how you navigate through challenges and respond to those around you, whether that’s your family, coworkers, employees, or friends. I say this because these leadership lessons are easily applied to a business, but they’re lessons that you can take with you for all of life. When you’re aware that how you interact with the world affects not only you but everyone around you, it may change the way you behave and the way you lead. Everyone is a leader in some form.
I recently spent some time living out of a vacation rental with my family after our house was flooded, and all of the floors needed to be replaced. On top of displacing my family, my wife was in a major car accident, but was thankfully relatively unharmed. To top things off, my son broke his ankle. These kinds of setbacks have a way of happening in clusters, don’t they?
It wasn’t long ago that we all experienced a major crisis, with the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. As many businesses have been recovering over the past few years, there have been plenty more setbacks along the way resulting from the various catastrophes that came along with the virus. Perhaps it was having to move to a remote workforce, working with smaller teams due to illness and job changes, handling industry changes, or even tragically losing team members to the virus. Many people and businesses are still acutely feeling the effects of the pandemic, and even though the biggest crisis may be behind us, it’s important to learn from that experience and be prepared to handle future setbacks, even if they may not be as world-shattering.
During the time that my family was facing so many challenges, I came to an important realization when I saw how much my own attitude affected not only my family members, but also my team. As a leader, people look to me to inform how they feel about things. And as a person, people respond to my own attitudes and emotions in kind. I was able to navigate my family crises fairly well because I kept a calm head and a positive attitude. Things could have been much worse, and I was grateful for what we had. My wife and my son were both safe, and we were able to find a comfortable place to live while we waited for our housing repairs to be complete.
In times of crisis, it’s easy to let whatever is going on get into your head, stress you out, and bring you into a negative mindset. But as a business leader, it’s especially important to adopt an attitude of positivity, because the perspective you take will dictate the perspective your team members take. Having a negative attitude will degrade morale. If you don’t believe in your business and your team, why should they? Low or negative energy is contagious.
On a broader level, this applies to everything in your life. Your kids pick up on your emotions, and so does your spouse. Even your friends do. It may seem to you like you’re behaving completely normally, but if you don’t keep a positive perspective, negativity will absolutely seep out in your body language, word choices, and facial expressions. As social creatures, we’re very attuned to reading these things, and they influence our own emotions.
When navigating a challenge in your business, it’s vital to keep a positive attitude. If this is a challenge for you, I recommend doing some positivity exercises every day to keep you focused on what’s important. Start by saying out loud the things you’re thankful for. Take time to write down or call a friend to share about what you’re grateful for. Slow down to appreciate the beautiful things around you. Try being extra kind and generous, even if you don’t feel like it—it’s difficult to feel bad when you’re doing something nice for someone. And never forget to keep encouraging and uplifting your team members.
Another principle of leadership that’s important when you’re in a difficult situation is to remember to listen first and then act. Leadership is all about listening. You can’t make strong decisions without a full understanding of everything that’s going on. This is especially true during some kind of setback. You may misinterpret the reason something went wrong or what solutions already exist to fix a problem.
To be a great listener, it’s important to keep a positive energy and make yourself someone who is easy to talk to. If you panic or react badly to negative news, it’s possible your team will try to hide problems from you. Rather than being a source of stress for your team members, be a source for solutions. Some leaders have a policy where they won’t allow team members to bring up a problem without a proposed solution, but this kind of rule discourages collaboration. Make a space for problem solving collaboratively by being a good listener, understanding all of the factors behind an issue, and working together to reach solutions.
By keeping a positive attitude even during the most difficult times, you can keep your team’s morale high and create the best circumstances to navigate the challenges you’re facing. Remember to be a great listener and a positive influence on everyone around you, not just in business but with everyone you interact with. By creating a positive environment even during a crisis, you will lead more effectively and people will respond in kind.