As President and CEO at FinDecMichael excels at guiding people and guiding them through difficult situations.
According to a Swedish proverb, “Raw water is a better test of leadership. In calm waters, every ship has a good captain.”
My father led our financial company through the housing crisis of 2008 and the aftershocks of 9/11. In my role as president and CEO of the company, I have modeled much of my leadership style after him. As I reflect on the unprecedented events of the past three years and our combined more than 30 years of leadership through countless economic setbacks, I believe there are a few valuable lessons worth sharing for those guiding ships through turbulent times. .
The reverberations of the long-standing pandemic, the historic rise in inflation and the war in Ukraine have turned every aspect of our personal and professional lives upside down. Businesses in all sectors have faced extraordinary challenges due to supply chain disruptions, staff shortages and market fluctuations. No industry has avoided the setbacks caused by the events of the past three years.
While my military and police training armed me with skills to lead calmly during crises, I believe my ability to stay true to my values and consistent in my leadership style kept our ship steady as it moved through these shaky 36 months.
There are many who endorse adaptive or situational leadership and adapt their style to the current situation. I believe that when external forces cause disruption or turmoil within your organization, one of the most damaging things you can do is create more chaos by changing the way you lead.
The culture of a company is most likely strongly determined by the leadership style of the CEO. If your style includes open and regular communication with employees during calm seas, the same cadence of honest communication is expected when the boat is thrown off balance. If you suddenly stop communicating when there is instability, it can lead to uncertainty, mistrust and confusion that can cause employees to “jump ship”. Reliability and familiarity are essential for employees in times of instability.
This does not mean that you cannot adapt to changes in the environment. For example, my company’s workplace has traditionally been a workplace where employees work in our offices. The pandemic has allowed us to be creative with how and where our employees work, with some positions shifting to a remote model. Similarly, I usually meet weekly with my executive team, but during the recent weeks of historic market swings, I’ve added additional check-ins to provide additional guidance and reassurance.
Keeping track of internal and external factors and shifting processes is important, but it’s different from changing the way you lead. The only thing employees can count on when outside forces are causing instability in their work and personal lives is that you are consistent and true to your leadership style.
Here are a few things to remember when the water gets choppy:
1. You are not alone.
Most organizations are dealing with the effects of the supply chain crisis, which is driving prices up and affecting revenues. Staff shortages, budget adjustments and difficult choices are not unique to every industry. Find colleagues and friends in leadership positions so you can exchange frustrations and challenges. Maybe you’ll get some ideas and feel better knowing you’re not alone.
2. Don’t change your leadership style.
Be true to yourself and your leadership style. Stay on track in good times and bad. Model consistency in your core values, skills and communication. Employees will appreciate stability at the helm.
3. Don’t get stuck in today’s headlines.
Knowledge is power. Read beyond the headlines and explore multiple sources. Trust the financial experts, not the internet or television who may not be qualified to give advice. It’s a challenge right now, but you need to put your energy into the things you can control as the market corrects itself – and it will.
History tends to repeat itself, so I believe the seas will eventually calm down. In the meantime, stay the best leader you can be for your organization by staying steadfast in your leadership style and staying true to the skills that earned you a place at the helm.