What makes a good leader and how do you remain one when times become difficult and uncertain?

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Business engagement

Today’s news is filled with instability and examples of leadership, with which some agree and others disagree with. Budget cuts leading to job cuts, lead to criticism of leadership in various organisations.

The Norfolk police budget cuts mean 101 jobs may need to be cut. These cuts have been criticised by Chief Constable, Simon Bailey who says he is worried crime will rise as a result. Although they are being replaced by 81 new police officers, the personal impact on the individuals being made redundant is significant. The short-term effect is the emotional impact on the individuals and their families but also on the local economy and increase in crime. What it will also mean for the redundant police officers is a possible carer change, which could be difficult to cope with after spending many years in the emergency services, as they would have given a part of themselves to the job.

Similarly, Jaguar Land Rover recently confirmed 4,500 job cuts as part of a transformation plan. According to the BBC, the atmosphere within the company has been described as very tense following the communications from management to employees being “cryptic”. Failure to inform employees of company plans may result in stress leading to poor decisions and judgements of certain situations by the employees. This is why it is important to scan the environment and respond to changes and communicate positive problem solving and doing so correctly. Not making a difficult situation seem like a crisis or emergency, to avoid panic and low morale among employees. However, where one is dealing with decisions that will have a deep emotional impact on employees and their families it is key to be open and transparent.

These are only a couple of examples of very difficult decisions leaders have had to make, causing uncertainty within their organisations. But if those decisions had to be made and were almost unavoidable, for the good of the organisations, then why were they so criticised and how one remains a strong leader when such criticism occurs?

Today’s political and corporate leaders can find it difficult to remain to be strong leaders when public and employee opinions and views are taken into account.

When a leader, political or corporate, asks for the opinion of the public or employees they are bound to get responses that may challenge their own views. In times when you are being disagreed with, it may feel like it is difficult to remain a strong leader, so, what makes a good leader and how do you remain one when times become difficult and uncertain?

Sometimes leaders have to make ethical decisions that do not always reflect what they believe but what is good for the organisation.

John Hepworth and David Dawson who have recently written a paper titled “The drivers of Higher Education leadership competence: a study of Moldovan HEI’s” say that a good leader has to make ethical decisions that are best for the mass, not just for themselves. They also need to communicate a good vision and tell the story, which people are willing to buy into.

Similarly, David Dawson, says that change needs to be created but while it is being created, things cannot be forced on people as they most likely will not accept it. Also, do not make decisions and situations more dramatic than they are.

All of this, however, depends on the situation. Sometimes criticism is unavoidable as peoples’ views vary and it is almost impossible for a leader’s decisions to not be criticised.

Teresa May is currently in exactly this situation. She has been put into a difficult position and due to the amount of different public opinions, her decisions cannot make everyone happy. Pro-brexiters might see her as a poor leader because she hasn’t taken the UK out of Europe soon enough, and is still attempting to negotiate a deal. On the other hand, remain-voters may equally see her as a leader who is not doing what is best for the country.

So as a leader, knowing you simply cannot make everyone happy, there is little you can do.

Going through the process of making people redundant is tough. In the leadership position showing you’re a human is invaluable. One needs to present a vision and communicate it so that people buy into it.

Authored by: David Dawson, Jocelyn Fleming, Lloyd Parsons, Sam Copland, Dagmara Durlik.

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