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Influential Leader: How to Deal with Difficult

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

"Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing." - Peter F. Drucker


Sometimes being a leader means making the hard call. This is very often what it means.

Remember, the captain's job is to go down with the ship. You are trying to protect your team so they feel confident to do their best work. And that sometimes means taking a severe hit.

Here is how to deal with things when the going gets rough.

How To Stay Calm as a Leader?

What do you do when you lose your biggest client, you think? That your company will no longer be able to afford to employ everyone? What do you do when your family is in debt? And do you need to tell them that you must downsize your home?

The single and most important job of a leader is to remain calm.

Remember: you are protecting your team and taking the hits so they can do their best work in a safe environment. That extends to being calm in a crisis so they do not have to panic.

If your team is worried about layoffs, how are they supposed to focus and do their best work? This can ultimately become a self-fulfilling prophecy if allowed to escalate.

Consider that your team will look to you to set the tone. If you seem panicked, then they will panic. They will see that you have it under control if you appear calm. If you seem panicked, then they will panic. Not only that, but you will also be able to appear more confident in your leadership. Ultimately, it is only by being confident in yourself that you can inspire confidence in others!

This is different from hiding the truth from your team. One of the worst things you can do for a unit from a communication standpoint is to lie and tell them everything is okay when it is not. While this might seem as though it would further the cause of helping your team to stay focused on their work, the truth is that it will eventually come out in the wash. This means you will lose your team's trust, and they will not know how best to prepare themselves for the coming event. Be truthful, reassuring, transparent, and calm.

How to Manage Difficult Team Members

Another issue that you will find yourself struggling with is the occasional mutinous individual. Whether you are the captain of a ship or a team leader on the meat aisle, you will find people always do not want to do as you say.

So, what do you do in this situation?

As before, you should not reprimand, threaten, or punish the individual. Once more, this is morally a dubious position to take and a bad strategy! This is because isolating, alienating, and aggravating someone who already intends to disrupt your leadership is a bad idea. Doing this will only cause that person to recruit more of your team to their cause and to spend time thinking about how wrong your leadership style is!

Ever heard the saying "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer"? This is a saying that Italian autocrat Mussolini believed in strongly, which is why he coined the phrase “Transformism" to describe how he would deal with dissidents. This meant giving that vocal opponent a position of authority within his organization.

The Influential Leader

This strategy can often work wonders, as it turns that critic into someone who is now collaborating with you to improve your leadership. They can see first-hand the challenges you face and that perhaps life is not quite as simple as they believed it to be. It also ensures they feel valued and cherished by the organization rather than ostracized. And it lets you keep a close eye on them.

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