There are two types of leaders in a crisis — those who become totally obsessed with the short term, and those who are savvy enough to look at the long-term implications of what is happening around them. These are the ones with vision. These are the ones who, even if things are tough (as they are for so many right now), will emerge victorious. Or at least with a business that still has somewhere to go.
The problem is, it’s so easy to become the leader with the short-term vision when things are going wrong around you. You jump from one fire to the next, putting them out as you go but always finding another one to deal with. Of course, at the time this is going to seem like the best thing to do, but think of it this way — shouldn’t the firefighters be dealing with the small blazes? And shouldn’t the fire chief, the brigade captain, be overseeing everything and coming up with a long-term plan so that the fires, once out, don’t start up again?
The answer is yes. And this is why the most successful leaders are the ones who don’t feel they have to deal with every little thing that goes wrong; they have the right staff to do that for them. They concentrate on where the business is going and how to get there. It’s not that these people don’t have crises to deal with — they absolutely do because everyone does — it’s just that they know how best to handle them. And who is best to handle them. And that person isn’t always the chief; it’s often one of the firefighters instead.
The Current Situation
There’s no way to get around the fact that the current situation is not a good one for many businesses. Business owners and leaders are going to be concerned about the future viability of their companies, and that’s important, of course. But in order to come up with a plan that is going to work, you need to have that long-term vision. Fighting the fires that are burning all around you will only take you so far; you are going to need to get further than that, wherever that is.
This is why you need to have an effective vision. John Kotter’s best selling book, Leading Change, suggests that an effective vision has six distinct characteristics, and each one is going to need to be put in place in you want to have a successful, sustainable, future. (full disclosure: Kotter and his executive team were clients of mine when I helped them create their first Mission, Vision and Values.)