Handling Difficult Situations in Leadership

October 29, 2014

I had the opportunity to speak to a group of high school sophomores from throughout the Archdiocese at a leadership retreat this week. The topic I was asked to address was Handling Difficult Situations in Leadership. What strategies do I use when times are tough?

While I was happy to share my thoughts on this topic, I began by explaining that the strategies I employ in the tough times are the same ones I try to employ at all times. Consistency allows leaders to be the calm in the storm.

Here is a brief summary of four strategies I shared with the kids:

  • Pray: Make prayer a regular part of your life, not just something you turn to in crisis. Keep a running dialogue going with God. Pray for the gift of a servant’s heart – you will need it in leadership.
  • Use all available resources – people and information: You don’t have all of the answers. Investigate best practices. Others have gifts they can share that will lighten your load. Empower them. You don’t have to do it alone.
  • Set the example: A group will mirror its leader. Make your life an example for those you lead. Be a person of honesty and integrity. Be prayerful and thoughtful. Be accepting and open-minded. When you do this, you are building a culture that will embrace those same values. If you are one type of person in good times, and another type of person in a crisis, you lose all credibility.
  • Focus on people: Always remember that you lead people. You may oversee a program, or be in charge of a project, or be responsible for developing a plan — but you lead people. Nothing is more critical to your overall success than the people you lead. Get to know them. Appreciate their gifts. Empower them to use those gifts. Support their efforts.

These strategies will serve you well in good times and bad. Used regularly, they cease to be mere strategies – they become a way of life. So when you run into difficult situations, you won’t need to search frantically for a response; you will simply do what comes naturally.

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