Back to the future

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Photo by aussiegall

Times are tough and many leaders need to make hard decisions. The main thing leaders are supposed to do is to worry about the future. The long term future. In our short term run world this is a very hard thing to do. Off course, real leaders are tested in hard times and not in good ones. So these times create great example of leadership style and behavior. The question is whether your leadership these days is affected by short or long term thinking.

Our political and economical leaders are facing hard issues that will be put down in history and might shape the future of the world for the next five, ten, twenty or years. There are many demands and there is an abundance of pressure to take certain measures like bailouts and incentive plans.  I am not an expert on these subjects, though some of the bailouts (like that of the car industry), just sounds plain wrong. I expect our leaders to do what is right in the long run and not what the public opinion demands due to panic. Every economist will tell you that most of the economic problems (including the one were facing today) start when our leaders give in to political and public pressure and act while thinking about the next election instead of the next 20 years.

I think that more interesting is the fact that every day, leaders of smaller magnitudes are also forced to make thousands of decisions that influence their teams and companies. These decisions are not always as public or scrutinized like those of the big politicians, but nevertheless will have enormous effects on some people lives.

Two examples I run into today:

The first concerns AIG incentive program which suffered real criticism lately. The critics asks how can the company spend an average of 5,000 $ on travel awards for independent agents when it is in the middle of a bailout program? Let’s say you are the man in charge of this program. As a leader you can look at this popular criticism which is derived of panic and ignores the fact that not only this program is very in line with what most companies spend on their grand travel awards for top performers, but it will also probably generate more money than it costs, and think of the short term results – no more criticism. Or you can ignore the critics (and analysts and other public opinion) and do what is right for your business.

The Second example is harder. A team leader has to explain to his team, which worked really hard for the last ten months on a project, that there their project is a part of a “let’s be fair” set of cuts that were the same 20% across the board. The question is how do you keep your team’s eyes on the larger goal that lies ahead? How do you deal with this tough call that was forced on you? I think the main thing you need to do, as a leader, is focus on the long term results. Back to the future. If you convince your team of the vision, you can lead them over the hurdle.

Elad

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