Saturday, August 28, 2010

Trusted Leaders in Troubled Times

Difficulties exist to be surmounted.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last week Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke delivered a major speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on the state of the economy. In the speech he sought to reassure financial markets that the Federal Reserve did foresee a slow recovery, and that the Fed was prepared to offer more support if necessary. The speech came as the Commerce Department released revised downward second quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers showing growth at just 1.6 percent.

The current state of the economy by any standard has people worried. The housing market remains sluggish, the stock market is vulnerable, and unemployment numbers are still troublesome. Add to the mix the partisan divide as the mid-term elections approach and we have a picture of a nation in turmoil.

Trusted leaders are not made in difficult times, they are revealed. Beethoven said, “This is the mark of a really admirable man; steadfastness in the face of trouble.” Whether you are the CEO of a large corporation or the owner of a small business struggling to make ends meet, a climate of trust and hope can alleviate many worries. Can faith and trust be restored in your organization in these troubled times? Yes it can, and here are a few ways in which you can make it happen.

Keep the vision before your team. I read a fascinating story by Don McCullough about Winston Churchill. In the story he writes about the time in which England needed to increase its production of coal. Churchill called together labor leaders to enlist their support. At the end of his presentation he asked them to picture in their minds a parade which he knew would be held in Piccadilly Circus after the war.

First, he said, would come the sailors who had kept the vital sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers who had come home from Dunkirk and then gone on to defeat Rommel in Africa. Then would come the pilots who had driven the Luftwaffe from the sky.

Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner's caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, “and where were you during the critical days of our struggle?' And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, 'we were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.’”

Presently your team may feel they are deep in the trenches with their faces to the coal. As you keep the vision before them you can inspire them with the confidence needed to endure troubled times.

Keep the faith in your team. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale said, “When you affirm big, believe big, and pray big, big things happen.” If there was ever a time in which your team could use your voice of faith and encouragement it is now.

I am reminded of the story from Bits & Pieces about American painter John Sargent. He once painted a panel of roses that was highly praised by his critics. It was a small picture, but it approached perfection. Although offered a high price for it on many occasions, he refused to sell it. He considered it his best work and was very proud of it. When he was deeply discouraged and doubtful of his abilities as an artist, he would look at it and remind himself, “I painted that.” Then his confidence and ability would come back.

We are indeed living in challenging times. Your team is not exempt from temptations to fall prey to discouragement as they glance at the news headlines. Yet when your team has reminders of the vision before them and your voice of faith behind them, the possibilities for all of you are endless.

C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” When vision and faith come together in the hearts of your team, troubled times will be remembered not for the struggle, but as the defining moment that your team came together went to the next level.

© 2010 Doug Dickerson

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