What do Gandhi, Winston Churchill, FDR, Deng Xiao Ping, Bismarck, and Abraham Lincoln have in common? Despite the differences in times, places and circumstances, each of these took a large and divided group of people staring despondently in the face of an abyss and – with gritty determination, inspiration and pragmatism – steered them to relative safety and prosperity. These were the true leaders for the tough times.
No doubt, these are tough times. Reactions are quite predictable. Economists are debating whether this is technically a recession or a depression. Politicians are debating which groups of people deserve their largest largesse. Populations are moving from denial towards anger. Meanwhile Business People are wondering who will survive and how. In this article, rather than focus too much on technical definition of the economic situation, or on public psychology, or on politics of the band-aid handouts, we will focus on way out of business peoples’ dilemma. In doing so, we will try to look well beyond the simplistic two-by-two matrices and banal three-arrow-diagrams traditionally used by management consultants everywhere.
Tough times call for different style of leadership. Why? – We will quote one of our dear departed teachers to illustrate the point. Capt. Rewari, our navigation instructor in Merchant Navy Officer’s course used to remind us before every training session “when the sea is calm and in vast open ocean with little traffic – even your girl friend and my wife (both untrained navigators) can navigate a super tanker with very little training. But I am preparing you for the times where your skills will be truly tested – e.g. in treacherously narrow waters of Malacca straits in a tropical squall with shipping density of nearly 100 ships per square mile, and perhaps pirates chasing you.”