The Role of Strategic Leadership in Turbulent Times

In business, turbulence and instability can come from anywhere. The past few years have seen an unprecedented amount of change as we appear to be entering a new era of business. 

Geopolitical tensions have disrupted supply chains. Technological advancements like AI present both opportunities and threats. Environmental and socio-economic shifts also affect how the business world operates.  

We spoke with Joe Krause, AchieveIt’s VP of Customer Engagement, to learn more about how good leadership guides organizations through turbulent times and toward long-term success. 

Be adaptable and resilient to uncertainty

In times of uncertainty, adaptability and resilience are crucial leadership qualities. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, commercial airline operators lost the vast majority of their scheduled flights. To adapt, many airlines temporarily repurposed their fleet to cargo flights.

“But ultimately, there’s always going to be economic weaknesses or political instability, or some form of uncertainty. The most important thing is that a leader should never see this as an excuse to not plan,” says Joe. Rather, qualities like adaptability and resilience help a leader adjust their plans to ensure the efficient and effective use of resources, especially in unforeseen situations.

To be adaptable and resilient, leaders should consider these actions:

  • Adopt a growth mindset. Embrace a willingness to change. View setbacks as opportunities for learning and improvement. 
  • Continuously learn and develop skills to navigate evolving landscapes. 
  • Create a culture of open communication and collaboration among other company leaders and your team. Seek input from diverse perspectives and adapt their approaches accordingly. 

Also read: Owning Up: Common Mistakes in Leadership and Strategy

Manage risk strategically

For effective strategic planning and execution during turbulent times, leaders must assess risks, make informed decisions, and adapt strategies to changing circumstances. 

Why? Leaders may need to recalibrate their business models, reallocate resources, or explore new market opportunities to mitigate risks and capitalize on emerging trends.

To manage risk effectively, leaders must be adept at problem-solving and decision-making because they have to:

  • Identify potential vulnerabilities and develop contingency plans through risk assessments, scenario planning, and stress-testing strategies. “You may decide that, in light of current circumstances, your strategic plan should be smaller than usual,” says Joe. 
  • Foster a culture of transparency and accountability. Give your teams the power to make decisions based on shared goals and objectives, keeping the big picture front and center.
  • Be data-oriented. Using data analytics and insights provides leaders with valuable information for evaluating risks and opportunities. It enables you to make informed decisions that align with organizational objectives. 
  • Meet regularly to review collectively. “You have to understand what’s beneath the numbers to see if you’re moving in the right direction.” Joe believes that a monthly chat is the best way to stay on course, particularly in times of instability. 

Communicate effectively and transparently

Effective communication skills and transparency are vital strategic leadership skills under any circumstances, but particularly during times of uncertainty. Transparent communication builds trust and alignment within organizations.

Research shows that during the COVID-19 pandemic, several leadership strategies surrounding communication and transparency improved employee satisfaction.

  • Communicate frequently with team members during crises: This can significantly impact employee satisfaction and overall organizational resilience. Leaders must find the right balance between addressing challenges and highlighting positive aspects of their strategic vision. “If you commit to sending out an update every Friday at 5 pm, make sure that update goes out no matter what,” says Joe. Even if the news is bad, your team needs to be aware of it and know how you plan to address the issue.
  • Provide safe avenues for employees to give feedback: This includes offering multiple channels for communication, such as human resources consultations, regular one-on-one meetings with managers, and anonymous suggestion channels. Additionally, effective leadership involves actively listening to employee feedback and periodically reporting back on the actions taken based on this feedback. This fosters trust and enhances employee satisfaction with the organization’s response to challenging situations.
  • Addressing concerns about job security and providing a plan for the future: Your team may have anxiety about their place in the organization. Reassure employees about job security and share how they fit with your strategic plans for the future.

Empower and support your team

Morale, productivity, and cohesion can all be maintained by empowering and supporting teams. Leaders must create an environment where team members feel valued, motivated, and empowered to overcome periods of economic uncertainty. Here’s how:

  • Organize team-building activities, such as online workshops and social events, to foster camaraderie and connection among team members. 
  • Provide resources and new opportunities for professional development to help employees feel more capable of overcoming obstacles.
  • Foster a culture of trust and collaboration where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas, concerns, and feedback. The entire organization should feel welcome to give input on developing long-term goals and making strategic decisions.
  • Provide regular feedback and recognition for individual and team achievements. This boosts morale and reinforces a sense of accomplishment. It promotes buy-in and commitment to the organization’s goals. 

Also read: Transforming Leadership: Strategy & Execution

Continuous self-development 

Strategic management demands that leaders continually evolve their skills, strategies, and approaches. This involves:

  • Actively seeking feedback from stakeholders, mentors, and team members to gain insights into areas for improvement and opportunities for growth. 
  • Engaging in leadership training and development programs to enhance your skills and stay abreast of emerging trends and best practices.
  • Promoting a culture of innovation and experimentation to test new ideas and approaches, learn from failures, and adapt strategies accordingly. 
  • Embracing technology and using data analytics to dig into market trends, customer preferences, and organizational performance. Use that to make informed decisions and adapt your approach in real time.

Joe also highlights the value of adopting a controlled response to bad situations. “We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond.” Emotional, knee-jerk responses might be counterproductive in such moments. Effective leaders can remain calm, take a step back, and try to find an answer using logic instead of anger, panic, or fear. And often, such composure is a product of committed self-development.

Lead the way through uncertainty

The right tools are crucial for helping organizations develop future-ready strategic leaders. Through its suite of tools and support, AchieveIt enables organizational leaders to automate updates, increase visibility, centralize information, drive accountability, and improve execution.

AchieveIt provides a comprehensive view of progress across all of an organization’s integrated plans. It can eliminate the challenges of managing multiple plans and seamlessly track progress throughout the organization. AchieveIt empowers leaders to navigate uncertainty with confidence, ensuring resilience and success in the face of adversity.

To find out more, get in touch today.


Meet the Author  Chelsea Damon

Chelsea Damon is the Content Strategist at AchieveIt. When she's not publishing content about strategy execution, you'll likely find her outside or baking bread.

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