Leadership Tangles Blog

More on Untangling Leadership Fears

Posted by Marcia Ruben, PhD, PCC on Tue, Mar 10, 2009

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." Ambrose Redmon

It is easy to talk about courage when everything is going well. It is quite another to call up that state of being and sustain it when we are gripped by fear. Many years ago, I researched and taught courses on stress management. I used to joke that I was teaching what I most needed to learn. I have since discovered that managing ourselves is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It is a skill to remain calm under pressure and stay balanced when the unexpected strikes. Employees do not want to see their bosses rattled or lose their cool. They want a leader who is a calming influence.

So how do you summon a state of courage when you are quaking in your boots? How can you better roll with the punches, so that as leaders you can, as Dave Cooke writes in his blog, Pure Cooke, "...encourage and empower and motivate our teams to find ways to enhance and improve the business?" As Dave so aptly states: "While we are immediately and centrally focused on the revenues and cost side of the business spectrum right now, we cannot lose sight that the ideas or solutions that will save our business is probably not in cost savings. Rather, it will be found in your passionate, motivated, and innovative team working together to turn things around. "

I have found the following to be helpful both personally and in working with clients. First, check your thinking. Are your thoughts rational and logical? How real are the threats? What actions can you take to mitigate the risks? Secondly, you cannot come up with creative ideas when you are not breathing. Most of us take very shallow breaths. When I want to come down, I take in two long deep breaths through my nose, and breathe out in four long breaths. This has an automatic calming effect. And finally, connect with others. I am making a conscious effort to reach out to friends and colleagues who are upbeat. And I watch myself carefully to make sure that my words are creating a positive reality. According to social constructionists we create our reality through conversations with others. Right now, the national conversation taking place in the media is doom and gloom. I want to create a more empowering and positive reality, so I watch my words, and the feelings that they evoke in me and others. If I can uplift myself and others through conversations, even if for micro-moments, that creates a positive reality in that moment.

If you are struggling between fear and courage, contact info@rubenconsulting.com for a free 10-minute consultation.

Please join in the conversation. Have ideas for being courageous in the face of fear?

Topics: Fear, courage, self-management

Five Tips for Leading Through VUCA

Posted by Marcia Ruben, PhD, PCC on Tue, Dec 02, 2008

VUCAIt's official. The United States is in a recession, and has been for a year, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. And for many I have spoken to, this recession feels very different from past ones. I believe that the difference is the level of VUCA, or volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Regular readers of my blog know that I have posted a number of blogs on the topic. Simply put, VUCA is like an E ticket ride at Disneyland , in dense fog, with a stuck stop/start gear.

So how is a business leader to lead? During 2002-2007, I entered a doctoral study program at Fielding Graduate University while also continuing my consulting and coaching practice. During that time, I did in-depth research on leadership and culture in times of crisis. While I can write for days on this topic, and did, and will continue to do so, here are a few findings from my proprietary research.

Leaders who effectively lead through VUCA exhibit the following five characteristics:

1. They are adept at quickly gathering complex information, making sense of it, and determining where to focus resources and where to cut their losses. Some academic writers labeled this strategic capacity as wisdom.

2. They are able to spot trends far in the future, as well as make certain that concrete plans are in place for allocating resources and schedules to ensure short term viability.

3. They are decisive. They make decisions and stick to them.

4. They have the interpersonal capacity to build strong networks, build follower-ship, and make things happen

5. They are able to build organizations that collaborate across functions, demonstrate accountability, and recognize and communicate early warning signs

Executive leaders are responsible for balancing the needs for short-term results with a long-term strategic view for sustainability. Doing this through VUCA is increasingly challenging. Having a team of strong leaders is critical, as well as trusted advisors to validate thinking and guide strategic thinking.

Topics: VUCA, Fear, leadership, courage

Courage to Continue in Tough Times

Posted by Marcia Ruben, PhD, PCC on Mon, Nov 17, 2008

Courage in Tough TimesThis morning's San Francisco Chronicle featured a story in remembrance of the Jonestown massacres thirty years ago. In the front page article, Congresswoman Jackie Spier recalls her trip to Jonestown with Congressman Leo Ryan . For the past several weeks, the daily financial news has been grimmer and grimmer. Business leaders are faced with rising costs, uncertain revenue projections, and a shortfall of cash and credit.

Guyana gunman pumped Jackie Spears five times with bullets on November 18, 1978, leaving her for dead. Miraculously she survived, recovered, and entered public life. She fell in love, married, had a child, and her beloved husband was killed in a tragic accident while she was pregnant with their second child. She lost everything.

What stood out for me in her account is a quote by Winston Churchill that Congresswoman Jackie Spiers cites at the end of her article. "Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."

As I think about the business leaders with whom I work, I believe that courage in the face of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) is one of the most important character traits leaders need to cultivate in order to continue through these challenging times. I am witnessing leaders who are frozen with fear, paralyzed, and not sure which direction to turn. This is natural. Courage is cultivated by facing our fears, calmly examining options, and moving forward even when we are afraid. We know that this too will pass. What is important is the choices we make as leaders to get us through this difficult time. What choices are you making?

©Copyright Marcia Ruben, Ph.D. Ruben Consulting Group All rights reserved

Topics: VUCA, Fear, leadership, courage

Marcia Ruben, RCG

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

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