Leading Your Way Out of the Recession

Last year I wrote this article for "Big Think" that still seems relevant given the continued high unemployment rates. So, as we end this year, and look more optimistically at 2011, have a look at "Leading Your Way Out of the Recession."

These are not times for followers. Those who will succeed during the current economic downturn will have the traits of leaders.

  • Self confidence
  • A clearly articulated, and broad vision
  • A willingness to be flexible
  • The skill to act upon intuition
  • A talent in mobilizing resources (the right type, at the right time)
  • An optimistic attitude/ability to bounce back from adversity

We are in a long-term recession. It is not an event-based happening, but more of a fundamental shift in our economy.

Many economists are saying that the current faltering economic towers are a sign that we are experiencing the last thrusts of a seismic shift from a century in the Industrial Age, into a firm placement in the Information and Creative Age.

Regardless of what you call it, the current economic downturn has changed many of the rules (and/or patterns) of business that have been set over the past decades. With the old rules gone, and the new ones not yet firmly established, the followers are left with nothing to lean on, except change.

By nature, most of us find change to be a scary thing. Change is about the unknown. But it can also be about possibility and opportunity. And there's one thing that I firmly believe in-those who will succeed in this environment will embrace change, and lead into the future.

Those who've lost their jobs (or companies) and who are bouncing back, are not the ones who are blaming their woes on the economy, they are the ones who see an opportunity in change. They are leading, rather than following.

So, beyond having the basic traits of 1). Self confidence, 2). having a broad vision, 3). flexibility, 4). the ability to act on intuition, 5). mobilization of resources and 6). optimism, what is a leader to do?

Whether you are starting a business, working within a business, or are looking for a new job or career, there are some fundamental rules that do apply-Here are the 5 Rules For Leading in the New Economy:

Rule #1: Acknowledge that the rules have changed. Things will not go back to the way they were. Yes, things in the economy will improve, but they will not return to how they once were.

Rule #2: Know what the new rules are, and how to optimize for them. Examine why your business failed (or is faltering), or why you were laid off. What fundamental business truths are no longer in existence, and do some research into what jobs, and what business categories are thriving-and why.

Rule #3: Think creatively, and be ready for when the economy picks up. Use the downturn as a time to plan, and visualize how you will be successful once the economy starts rolling again. If you're in an organization where budgets (and staff) have been slashed, and there's no money to grow-use this time to develop strategic, visionary plans. Remember, thinking and planning are free. If you're out of work, how can you re-position your skill set to fit into the new economy? Read business books, attend webinars and conferences-use this time to think and learn.

Rule #4: Leverage the opportunities of a changing economy-consider the lower costs of goods, rents and salaries. If you are starting up a company, consider asking out of work experts to "trade brains for stock"

Rule #5: Subscribe to the theory of "Delusional Positivity." Just as the emotion of stress can have a physiologic affect on our health, I believe that have a positive outlook can have a fundamental affect on a positive outcome. Those who wallow in self-pity, and negativity, can be left blinded when opportunity does arise. The concept of "Delusional Positivity" suggests that by keeping a steady, and consistent positive outlook on the future will keep your eyes wide open to every new opportunity that presents itself. A good example of this theory was Barack Obama's "Yes We Can" theme of his presidential campaign.

So, go out there and lead, with Delusional Posititivy, self-confidence and the traits of a leader, and remember that the willingness "...to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before" has worked before, and will work again.

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