When Times Are Tough, How Do Leaders Keep Themselves Motivated?


The media certainly has highlighted the negative behavior of some business leaders of late…not all leaders are taking large bonuses, while others in their firms are facing uncertainty and layoffs etc. Many leaders are feeling the pain as much as anyone else.

Stress and anxiety are a part of everyone’s life in tough times, yet leaders often feel responsible for not only their own stress, but that of others. Leaders prefer to create successes, not narrowly avoid disasters. They feel responsible for the business and the workforce and may feel guilt as a result of layoffs and cutbacks. Obviously, more stress is not only unhealthy, but also counterproductive to strong leadership.

So, what is a stressed leader to do?

Psychologist Catherine Sandler suggests that the first step is for leaders to understand and accept their vulnerabilities and use this knowledge to help them regulate their moods and responses. Leaders need to accept that certain feelings of emotional turmoil are normal and not fight them. Once accepting the aspects of their situation are causing them stress, they can plan a coping strategy. Exercise, good nutrition and nurturing relationships are all good parts of a coping plan.

The second step is for leaders to seek out the people they lead and listen and empathize with how they feel. While this is a critical step for leaders to take in order to help their employees stay on track, it can also be draining and add more stress to an already stressful situation. Leaders should also make a point of seeking out others who can listen and be empathetic to them, whether they are peers, friends or family members. Don’t underestimate the power of having someplace to vent, so you can then refocus on the task at hand with more energy and clarity.

The third step is for leaders to not get too caught up in stories of doom and what can’t be done, but instead refocus on possibilities for both themselves and others they lead. When so much is out of people’s control, focusing on the little things that we CAN DO will help keep us motivated. To that end, it is also important to celebrate the small victories. Perhaps we aren’t hitting the numbers we used to, but we can celebrate getting one more client. That will help us feel energized to get more clients and ultimately improve business results.

The fourth step is to focus on the difference we can make. When we are depressed, we focus on ourselves. When businesses are depressed, they focus on themselves. Turn the focus outward to where and to whom we can make a difference in the world. Leaders can focus on the people, internal and external to the organization, to whom they can make a difference. After all, don’t most of us feel good when we can make a difference to others?

All things in business go in cycles, and while we are certainly in a down cycle, practicing these small steps can make the down cycle seem shorter and less painful. What steps have you taken to stay motivated in these tough times?

Want to take the leadership in your organization to the next level during tough times? We at Ignite would love to discuss with you how we can improve leadership on all levels of your organization. Please give us a call at (781) 979-5460, or email us at amy@weigniteit.com.

--- Jackie Sonnabend

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Ignite Thursday, August 19, 2010 @ 8:00 AM   0 Comments

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Ignite offers a variety of transforming programs that can propel you and your organization to brilliant successes. And we have experience in a wide range of industries, so we can tailor each session to specifically address your needs and goals. To learn more please contact us.