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Leadership In A Time Of Famine

I've been working in Ireland for one of the financial institutions supporting their regeneration through the evaluation and development of their leadership capacity. It has been a compelling, tough assignment. It is rare to be involved in work that has not just organisational but national consequences.

I am starting to wonder if the leadership challenge is changing and what this means for the leadership that needs to be demonstrated. In the early days it was about fighting fires , each day there was a new challenge, a new threat. There were days when you would win 5-3 and other days when you would go home 0-6 down.

This situation needed leaders who were decisive, brave, spontaneous, quick witted, immensely tough, oriented towards quick wins and fixes, capable of responding to the unexpected – leaders who would thrive on a crisis.

Unconsciously I think as Christmas approached I believe many of us felt that we would be entering a time when things would begin to get easier, that the fires were getting put out and that a future could be dreamt of.

But that is not how it has turned out to be. January and February do feel different, but the difference is a change from the excitement and threat of a storm to a realisation that we must seek to flourish in the arid, tough, wide desert of opportunity. There is going to be no great single solution, no brilliant decisive move, no great battle to be won on a single day but instead a long war of attrition. This is about leadership in a time of famine. And what sort of leaders flourish in times like these. I sense a need for quiet, self-contained resolve, an ability to focus on the future whilst sustaining people’s optimism in the reality of today. Leaders who realise tomorrow is to be built step by step, inch by inch, and that each day they need to seek to sustain the resilience and capability of the people they lead.


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