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Weathering the storm

In conditions of high risk and uncertainty that are likely to remain with us for some more years, business and government leaders with exceptional resilience, courage and clear thinking are wanted more than ever before.
Dealing with crisis is not new to our corporate leaders. Stories, albeit, few and far between, of their resilience are laudable. However, this time round our country is particularly vulnerable. It has been hit by the effects of global economic recession, just when it is in the throes of a convoluted war waging on its borders. And all this just when a fledgling democratic government is presiding.

How do companies survive, let alone prosper, in these hostile conditions? What are our organizational leaders doing in such circumstances? Some are wasting precious time sharing half-baked opinions on the unfolding geo-political scenario; while others are steering their ships safely through these stormy waters with determination, flexibility and creativity.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. This may be a hackneyed phrase, but it is not to be taken lightly, particularly in the chaotic times we are facing in Pakistan today. The word ‘tough’ sounds like an understatement these days. What we are confronting is nothing less than an economic, social and a political tsunami, on a scale never known before.

It is only when the seas are rough, that the true value of the ship’s captain emerges. He provides the kind of leadership that brings clarity, instead of false comfort. People naturally gravitate to him and cooperate wholeheartedly to confront challenges.
In conditions of high risk and uncertainty that are likely to remain with us for some more years, business and government leaders with exceptional resilience, courage and clear thinking are wanted more than ever before.

Our chaotic times demand leaders who are very intuitive and emotionally intelligent. They have the temperament to prepare for the worst, while expecting the best. They manage to stay calm and alert to opportunities. Those less prepared are paralyzed by fear in the face of threats to their lives and business. Leaders who remain calm and alert in a crisis can weather any storm. They have a pre-disposition to the coexistence of opposites. They believe that our desire for peace and stability, while natural, needs to be balanced by our acceptance of disturbances of all kinds in our environment.

Stress, when left unattended causes blurry vision and fogs thinking. We get unduly stressed when our ‘present’ is crowded out by our fear of what might happen in the future, and by the guilt or remorse we harbor from our past. This includes what we did, and now feel we shouldn’t have done or should have done, but did not do.

To allow our fear of the future and guilt of the past to hijack our ‘present’ is a grave mistake. We need to recognize the value of the present moment and create the space for it in our mind. A cool head helps us makes quality decisions in the present that positively impact our future outcomes. While I can see you agreeing with this train of thought, please ask yourselves, how many times you, your friends and associates, end up suffering from tensions, wasting precious time blaming and complaining about adversities surrounding you?

Wouldn’t it be wiser to be proactive in tough times and engage in serious analysis of the socio, economic, and political environment affecting your business? On-going strategic thinking and review will help you uncover ways to mitigate the impact of threats and you will be better able to profit from opportunities for your enterprise. Only an agile and responsive organization can survive in such turbulent times.

This calls for exemplary leadership characterized by confidence, decisiveness, deep understanding of internal and external challenges, and an appreciation of the genuine hopes and fears felt by key stakeholders. As the pace of change increases and the world of work make ever greater demands on your cognitive, emotional, and physical resources, this particular set of abilities will become increasingly important.

There will be ups and downs along the way. Do not be swayed by those who peddle fear by painting a doom and gloom scenario, and neither be carried away by comfort of the soothsayers who hold that all will be well soon.

To remain effective and inspiring, treat failures and setbacks as fertilizer for success. Apple founder Steve Jobs famously describes three setbacks – dropping out of college; being fired from the company he founded; and being diagnosed with cancer – that ultimately proved central to a better life. Each forced him to gain valuable perspectives on how to weather the storms.

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