It would be wrong to say that leadership in good times is easy. It’s our actions, though, in tough times, when the chips are down, that may define us as leaders.
Where I live in the Hunter area of Australia we have just had a once in a generation severe weather event. Destructive, cyclonic winds, extensive rainfall leading to widespread flooding, power outages to over 200,000 homes and businesses, and transport chaos due to road closures. The extent of property damage is still being assessed as the clean up begins. Worse though, lives were lost. Tough times indeed.
I saw examples of leadership, good and bad, that are worth reflecting on. Some business owners and managers, despite looking at business interruption, property damage and ongoing safety issues, put people first. They told their employees to stay at home, keep their families and homes safe and worry about work when things settled down.
I was aware of one organisation who, despite being aware of the unfolding emergency, put their employees at risk, insisting on them reporting for duty (non essential by the way). When it became obvious that business as usual couldn’t go on, they sent employees home, insisting on them taking the time off as annual leave. I believe this kind of response was isolated but worrying all the same.
I want you to think of the how the employees in both examples now think about their leader. One was compassionate, caring and put people first. The other was callous, self-centred and mean.
I don’t usually like using extreme, one-off examples to make a point but on this occasion clearly the leader did not put their people first and this is a major error of judgement, one that I think we can all learn from.
An important leadership lesson – put people first, in good times and in bad.