Since a number of people have noticed that the times are trying, many of them have decided to give advice on how to lead in trying times. As a professional opinionator, I thought I should not neglect to add my voice to the cacophony lest I be thought of as a person who is Out Of Touch. This is a sore subject for me as I have been evaluated by many teenage children for the last several years (my eldest turned 13 in ’93 and there has been a teen-aged editorialist in the house ever since). Teenage children have a canny knack for pointing out in verbal and non-verbal communications that their Ancient Father is Out Of Touch and no matter how much they assure you later that you are actually The Cool Dad, it does little to erase the persistent messages of out-of-touch-ness. But I digress.
When everything is slipping out from under you and your world is heels over head, these are the leadership ideas that I wished I could have remembered at the time:
1. Don’t get fancy and don’t bother with getting in a hurry.Things that are messed up don’t yield to going faster. Going faster when you are spinning generally leads to greater centrifugality. In other words (real English words, for example) you end up trying to go in many directions at once. Any organism with more than one cell should not attempt it.
2. Character matters more than smarts.If you obfuscate or simply spin the truth till it’s more attractive, no matter how brilliantly, it will come around and take a large bite from your gluteus maximus. We can’t have our leaders jumping from one frame to another, like the deceased eminences at Hogwarts. We need our leaders to stay put in our mental landscape, to be dependable presences, who tell the truth about their assessment of the depth of the manure.
3. Involve everyone you can in finding solutions.Crisis makes everyone 20% dumber because 50% of your energy is devoted to not losing your grip as the tornado spins the cows past the farmhouse. Smart leaders I’ve known spell out the direction and turn over the driving to the rest of the crew. It may look like a Volkswagen full of clowns, but everyone arrives at the same place.
4. You were a human before you were a leader. That gaunt, sad beanpole of a President, Honest Abe, told jokes and stories in the worst of times. No one ever committed their lives, their wealth, or their sacred honor to someone who didn’t feel what they felt. At the same time, you are the hope miner, the confidence weaver, the one searching for the light. When honey bees find a good source of nectar they dash back to the hive to dance the story of their discovery. Your little jig on behalf of hope is the confidence-builder that merits the commitment of your people.
Your Ancient Friend,