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Simple Rules for Leading Through Tough Times

In my previous post, I mentioned that leadership is easy 90% of the time. Then I gave some simple rules for leading well. But what about the other 10% of the time?

There will be times leadership is tough and requires making tough calls. That’s why leaders get paid the BIG bucks! (Okay, maybe not that BIG but you know what I mean)

Handling challenging situations, difficult decisions or problematic people can make or break your leadership credibility. Many leaders fail in these times because they default to making emotional, personal or reactive decisions. Having a few simple rules for leading through the tough times can help you navigate challenges with greater wisdom.

Here are a few to get you started.

Get Wise Counsel – In Proverbs 15:22 Solomon suggests, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” It’s always tempting for a leader to think, “I need to prove myself by making the tough decision on my own.” That’s pride guiding you to put yourself in a dangerous position. When facing a tough leadership situation get different perspectives and develop a list of options by seeking the counsel of other godly believers.

Don’t Make Emotionally Driven Decisions – You’re human. You will feel negative and maybe even inappropriate emotions in difficult situations, especially if you feel attacked personally. But great leaders don’t lead from emotions, they lead from wisdom. They have the maturity to process their situation through the grid of biblical truth so they can respond in the right way. When Paul told Timothy to boldly confront the false teachers in Ephesus he made clear the goal of that confrontation was love. (1 Timothy 1:3-5) He was counseling Timothy not to be driven by his emotions when handling a tough situation.

Take Your Time but Not Too Much – Some leaders respond hastily and end up hurting themselves and others. Other leaders respond to slow and make matters worse. It’s tempting to wait and simply hope the problem will go away. But hope is not a great problem-solving strategy. If you face a tough problem attack it in the right time, in the right way, with the right spirit. Timing is everything.

Lead with Integrity – In tough times people can ask difficult questions, push their own opinions and question your motivation. This puts pressure on the leader to compromise, people please and skew the truth. The temptation can be to protect our own image rather than protecting the organization. And when we worry more about protecting our image or playing politics we compromise in ways that damage our integrity and credibility. Lead with the truth, it’s always better in the end. And even if things don’t end well you can walk away with your integrity intact.

Ask Yourself the Key Question – I heard Bill Hybels say leaders need to ask this question when they don’t know what to do: What would a great leader do? It’s amazing how much clarity and boldness this question can produce.

So these are a few simple rules that will help you lead well in tough times. What are some others you would add to the list?