BIZ WIZ! Carly Fiorina on Leading in Difficult Times

Many of us thought two years ago after the start of the COVID pandemic that we’d be enjoying a more normal world.  Instead, we are facing high inflation, a slumping stock market, a protracted and brutal war in Ukraine, and eclipsing 1 million COVID deaths in the United States. During these very challenging times, leadership is even more important. Problem-solving is even more important.

A leader’s purpose is to serve. Period. Now is not the time for self-pity or self-congratulations. Now is not the time for a leader to think about what this means for them or their future. Now is the time for a leader to take those actions and make those decisions that best serve their mission and all their constitutients – not themselves.

A leader is a problmem-solver. A leader steps up to identify, understand, confont and resolve problems. A leader does not preside. A leader does not run away from problems or pass the buck s others take the heat for tough choices.

During difficult times, immediate short-term problems must be solved and resolved quickly. However, a leader can balance their focus on the near term with a willingness to contemplate the longer term. Sometimes, the longer-term impact is unknowable, and decisions must be made immediately. So be it. Most of the time though, a balanced view of both the short and the longer-term is possible and advisable. A disciplined focus on problem-solving, now and going forward, forces a leader to contemplate the lasting consequences of their necessary, short-term choices. And that problem-solving discipline yields better solutions now and fewer problems down the road. 

For example, a leader confronts the problem of no revenue and too much expense. With only the short-term need in mind, the problem might be defined as: “How do I lay off as many people as quicky as possible?” Alternatively, the necessity for furloughs and lay-offs can be combined with the monger-term perspective that hiring must re-start someday. Now, the problem might be defined as: “How do I cut expenses and also ensure that I recognize the loyalty of my employees, help them as much as possible during this difficult time, and welcome them back when times improve?”

It’s easy to be confused about leadership in the good times. In good times, it is easy to believe that position and title make someone a leader; that popularity, influence, wealth, and fame make someone a leader. When challenging times come to an end, we are reminded that leaders are defined by none of these things, but instead by their behavior and actions.


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