Summary: Leading in Tough Times By John C. Maxwell
Summary: Leading in Tough Times By John C. Maxwell

Summary: Leading in Tough Times By John C. Maxwell

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Tough Times Are An Invitation to Opportunity

In tough times the people we lead find out who we are, and we also find out what we’re made of. As author Jack Kinder says, “You’re not made in a crisis—you’re revealed. When you squeeze an orange—you get orange juice. When you squeeze a lemon—you get lemon juice. When a human being gets squeezed—you get what is inside—positive or negative.”

The best way to approach tough times is to try to see them as opportunities. Most people want their problems to be fixed without their having to face them, but that is an impossibility. As a leader, as a coach, as a catalyst for turnaround, you need to help people solve problems, take responsibility, and work to make things better. They need help, which you can give them in the form of advice, encouragement, and positive reinforcement, but everyone needs to do his or her part and work together.

With that context in mind, here is how John would recommend that you lead and serve people during difficult times:

  1. Define Reality

Management expert Peter Drucker said, “A time of turbulence is a dangerous time, but its greatest danger is a temptation to deny reality.” So what is a leader to do? Define reality for people. That is a leader’s first responsibility.

  1. Remind Them of the Big Picture

Leaders are keepers and communicators of the vision. They bear the responsibility for always seeing the big picture and helping their people to see it. People need to be reminded of why they are doing what they do, and of the benefits that await them as a reward for their hard work.

  1. Help Them Develop a Plan

Before you can develop a strategy to get out of a difficult situation, you must know where you are and where you want to go. If you have helped people by defining reality and showing them the big picture, the next task is to identify the steps required to go from here to there. Not everyone finds it easy to do that. As a leader, you need to come alongside them and help them figure it out

  1. Help Them Make Good Choices

People’s choices define who they are and determine where they go. It’s true that we don’t choose everything we get in life, but much of what we get comes from what we’ve chosen.

  1. Value and Promote Teamwork

When times get tough, everybody needs to work together if they want to get the team out of trouble.

As the challenge escalates, the need for teamwork elevates

No team can win and keep winning unless everyone works together. It’s the responsibility of leaders to promote teamwork and get team members cooperating and working together

  1. Give Them Hope

Hope is the foundation of change. If we continue to hold hope high, and we help others to do the same, there is always a chance to move forward and succeed.


The Self-Leadership Challenge

Preparing Yourself for the Journey

The first step you must take as you approach tough times is to prepare yourself as a leader. You need to make yourself ready for the challenge of leading others through adversity. Of course, you must lead yourself well and make good choices. But you should also think about what kind of leader you want to be as you lead your team forward. Knowing yourself as a leader, what works best and is most effective for you and your team, is important at any time.

  • Spend Time with People Who Increase Your Courage
  • Find Ways to Get a Few Wins Under Your Belt
  • Quit Comparing Yourself to Others
  • Specialize Until You’re Special


The Change Challenge

Becoming an Effective Change Agent

As a leader in tough times, you need to become a change agent. You need to help others embrace positive change, even when it takes them outside their comfort zone. You need to help them get results, even when they worry that it might not be possible.

  • Find Common Ground
  • Change What Needs to Be Changed, Not What Is Easy to Change
  • Let Go of Yesterday So You Can Move Toward Tomorrow
  • Communicate the Message with Simplicity and Power
  • Activate Belief in People
  • Remove Barriers for People
  • Lead with Speed


The Teamwork Challenge

Building and Improving Your Team

If you want to succeed in tough times, you need a better team. You need the right people in the right places doing the right things together. As the leader, you are responsible for facilitating these things.

  • Place a High Value on Team Members
  • Understand Each Person
  • Give Respect Freely but Expect to Earn It from Others
  • Make Other People’s Agendas Your Priority
  • Commit Yourself to Their Growth


The Motivation Challenge

Inspiring Your Team to Excellence

During tough times, your job is to motivate your team to keep moving forward despite the obstacles in their path. As a leader, not only do you have the responsibility for the success of your team, you are in the position to inspire people to excel in spite of what you are all facing.

  • Start with Motivated People
  • Share Your Passion
  • Paint a Picture of a Better Future
  • Show How Their Role Makes a Difference
  • Give Each Person a Reputation to Uphold
  • Reward What You Want Done
  • Challenge Them to Keep Growing


The Strategy Challenge

Discovering New Ways to Win

Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck said, “Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them?” During tough times, the strategy challenge for leaders is finding new ways to win because, to paraphrase Albert Einstein, we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.

  • Don’t Underestimate the Challenge
  • Don’t Overestimate the Challenge
  • Don’t Wait for the Challenge to Solve Itself


The Communication Challenge

Getting Everyone on the Same Page

When most leaders think about communication, they focus on vision casting and giving direction. But communication is so much more than that—especially during tough times. Many people in the workplace today feel dehumanized and demoralized. They believe that the leaders and organizations they work for don’t care about them as people. This can be particularly true when the future is uncertain.

  • Listening to Understand Demonstrates That You Value People
  • Listening to Understand Has High Influence Value
  • Listening to Understand Leads to Learning


The Decision-Making Challenge

Keeping Everyone on the New Course

The greatest challenge in leadership is making decisions that affect other people, and in tough times you may face more of those kinds of decisions. It’s hard to make decisions every day on behalf of others and be confident that they will have positive results. Some leaders would rather act like the French revolutionary who said, “There go my people. I must find out where they’re going, so I can lead them.”

  • Do Your Homework
  • List Your Options and Where They Could Lead
  • Seek Advice from the Right People
  • Listen to Your Instincts


Final Word

Crisis offers the opportunity to be reborn. Difficult times can discipline us to become stronger. Conflict can actually renew our chances of building better relationships. It’s not always easy to remember these things. But as leaders, we must remind people of the possibilities and to help them succeed.

Everything rises and falls on leadership. If you have been trusted to lead, you have an opportunity to raise people up through tough times.

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