As a leader, sometimes reality stinks. We can try to sugar coat it or spin it all we want, but at the end of the day, if you are a leader for any length of time, you are going to encounter some lousy situations. So if you believe that to be true (and if you don’t . . . well, congratulations on your first week in leadership and enjoy the honeymoon), if there is nothing you can do to totally prevent what may feel like no-win situations, then how do you plan for the bumps in the road? Shock absorbers.
First, take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Everything feels more catastrophic and unsolvable when you are drained. Yes, for those of you who know me, I am reading this as I am writing it. And while it’s possible that I don’t always take my own advise, let’s just say I am a work in progress but I am clear in the destination. Fatigue makes everything harder, and since self care may be challenging in the midst of a tough situation, you need to start from solid footing.
Secondly, keep moving. I’ve never seen wallowing or paralysis get someone out of a difficult situation. The path forward rarely comes with an illuminated walkway and lighted exit signs, but putting one foot in front of the other is still the key to getting from point A to point B. You would be surprised how often a path comes into view only after you make a decision to step forward.
Disclaimer: That doesn’t mean running around like your hair’s on fire. Notice the advice above says to move forward, not spin in circles. Actually, this one is much harder than it sounds, because you will likely have lots of “experts” or well-meaning individuals giving you advice on what you “should” do. After all, it is easy to have an opinion when you don’t have skin in the game. But when you try to implement a little bit of this, and then respond to a little bit of that . . . you know, to cover all your bases . . . far too often you end up right back where you started.
Which leads me to my third “shock” . . . tough situations are in inside job. Yes, you should listen to trusted advisors, ponder the issue (which for me means thinking, praying, arguing with myself, and running out multiple scenarios), and weigh any possible solutions against your core values. And then get quiet and listen to your gut — which I believe pulls the best from your head and your heart and your lived experience.
That’s it, three easy steps. Okay, three steps. Easy isn’t part of the job description. But leading is. So take care of yourself, keep moving, and listen to your gut. There will still be bumps in the road, but a few shock absorbers will go a long ways in helping smooth the ride.