January 31


Leadership Demands: Are They The Same, Bull or Bear?

By Sara Canaday

January 31, 2010

leadership crisis traits skills downturn economic recession characteristics

Economic crisis.  It’s the lens through which Americans viewed every aspect of life and work in 2009.  Leadership was no exception, and how leaders meet the challenges of a struggling economy and rising unemployment was a subject of numerous theories, articles and studies.

I found many of the concepts interesting — even amusing.  Why?  Because much of what was said about the leadership skills required to “survive” is just as accurate a statement of the skills effective leaders display in calmer circumstances, regardless of the economic climate or pressures.

Take “Leadership Through the Crisis and After: McKinsey Global Survey Results”:

“… the kinds of leadership behavior that executives say will most help their companies through the current crisis, such as inspiring others and defining expectations and rewards, are the same ones they say will help their companies thrive in the future. The executives’ assessment of what’s needed for the long term hasn’t changed over the past year.”

Nor, would I imagine, has it changed from the years preceding this economic crisis.  But perhaps what has shifted is the relative importance of how leaders inspire others and define expectations. In fact, the manner in which they execute these behaviors is just as critical, if not more so, than the act itself.

A similar report, “Leadership Challenges in Uncertain Times,” penned by Development Dimensions International (DDI) outlines qualities that I would argue are foundational, rather than crisis-only leadership strategies.

1. Take operational control
2. Monitor and adjust
3. Promote innovation
4. Stay cool
5. Communicate hope
6. Engage and empower

When I look back to the pioneers who formulated the most lasting and proven leadership theories of today, many have more to do with leadership characteristics or non-cognitive skills than they do cognitive skills like strategic planning, critical thinking, business acumen, forecasting, procurement and allocation, or operational analysis.

That being said, I do believe that leaders should heighten certain leadership characteristics as the climate demands or dictates, and that there are some leadership competencies that evolve with each new decade — innovation and agility being the most prevalent in the last decade.

What do you think?  Are the most critical leadership skills during crisis cognitive skills or characteristics and traits?  Which are most relevant in this particular economic downturn?  Or do you think those skills and traits are by and large consistent regardless, bull or bear?


Sara Canaday

About the author

Sara began her journey working full-time while she earned an MBA. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, she repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.

Today, Sara is happily fulfilling that commitment as a keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. These venues have given her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results.

  • Excellent post, Sara. I’d like to add these to the list: 7) Model integrity, 8) Set the tone for the organization’s brand and culture, 9) Be honest. It all starts at the top in any organization. And as a parent, I can also tell you that these leadership traits are must-haves while raising kids.

  • Leadership skills are the same regardless of economic circumstances. There are six fundamental skill sets all highly effective and successful leaders have and use. With these skills sets leadership is a directed profession the same as any other profession. When you have the tools (knowledge) and you use them to attain goals (the mission), the result is what you planned for it to be. Using the fundamental skills takes the mystery out of leadership so not only can anyone do it, they can do it very successfully. “The key to being an effective leader is having and using the skills to create an environment that is positive and productive for all team members. Leaders who are highly skilled with people are highly effective and successful.” (Roberts, A.D., 21st Century Leadership—How to Lead Effectively and Develop People Successfully) Learning and using the six fundamentals develops leaders that are effective and successful in any environment.
    1. Emotional Intelligence
    2. Decision Making Skills
    3. Adaptability, Flexibility, and Accountability
    4. Focus on Positive Goals and Expectations
    5. Organization
    6. Open and Continually Learning
    We lead through people, we accomplish through their desire to succeed.
    A. D. Roberts is President/CEO of A.D. Roberts Consulting, Inc. North Augusta, SC. https://www.adroberts.com/

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