Surviving The Foul Weather of Leadership

I know what some of you are asking

“What is foul weather leadership?”

For those who are well aware of what foul weather leadership is, feel free to scroll past this to the Warren Buffet quote below. For those who are unfamiliar with foul weather leadership, allow me to explain very quickly:

Foul weather leadership is a term characterized by top management expert, Peter Drucker, who views it as one of the most important jobs in leadership.

Essentially, this form of leadership is being able to handle crisis—unexpected crisis and still drive results.

Effective foul weather leadership however, entails that the “unexpected” part is well anticipated, expected, and prepared for.

It doesn’t mean you immediately abandon everything you’re currently doing and go into crisis mode, but rather, you understand the situation, and you have all the tools needed to succeed in that situation if the crisis happens to show up.

I want you to imagine your foul weather leadership as if you are leading like everything is going well and to the plan, but you have a switch blade army knife and list of other tools in your back pocket ready to be easily accessed and used to handle ANYTHING thrown your way.

This ensures you continue to drive progress with how things are going currently, and then when the unexpected shows up, you are able to handle it very quickly and effectively, without losing any forward momentum like others in your market place might.

It’s as if the foul weather never showed up to begin with, you continue on the straight line of execution.

“In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield”

-Warren Buffet

So how does the “rearview mirror” apply to foul weather leadership?

Your rearview mirror is what gives you depth and understanding of what MIGHT be ahead, because the future is never guaranteed in our dynamic, ever-changing, and volatile business world.

Your rearview mirror contains the contingencies you have been able to develop, the things you’ve learned in experience, and the things you can use to at least give yourself a chance to anticipate, and be prepared for the uncertain measures you might face.

See...

You don’t know if there will be an accident on the highway.

You don’t know if you will be forced to go from driving 80 mph in the fast lane...

To all of the sudden completely SLAMMING on your breaks to a dead stop - all within 5-10 seconds...

Just so you don’t rear-end the person in front of you because of a sudden high speed traffic collision happened further ahead!!

However, past experiences, or things you’ve seen on TV, or even things covered in your driver training, may have equipped you with the knowledge to succeed if this scenario were ever to come up.

As a personal example, I know now that if there is no guard rail, etc. and you have plenty of the side of the road – as long as there is isn’t something or someone next to you - you can swerve over a bit in the case of sudden stop of the vehicle in front of you.

This decreases your chances of ramming into the back of them if you are unable to stop on time. I know this from experience and screwing up here, never again will it happen though.

True Test Of Leadership Is How You Function In Crisis 

Many leaders have it all figured out and excel when things go as planned. They even develop their own master plans, truly brilliant ones, in preparation of normal circumstances.

Their mastermind approach allows them to succeed above many in their market place facing the same normal conditions. They have an uncanny ability to dominate in an expected world where they can stick to their “perfect plans”.

Where are they when the unexpected knocks on their door though?

How do they do when the unexpected storm rolls in?

What happens when the business world throws them a curveball, or a key employee on the team gets arrested?

These answers serve as a testament to the ability of the foul weather leadership in the organization.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, in business, and in sports, the playing fields are very volatile.

In sports - your game plan can be totally wrong. You can watch film on a team who decides to adopt a completely different offensive or defensive strategy. One that NO other team has seen all season, something completely new.

Something that was never revealed on film, or seen in years past by anybody else, etc. This new system, if effective, can be an absolute nightmare for you.

In business – your market strategy can depend entirely on Facebook ads and then all of the sudden, Facebook can change their policy on their ads, or, get rid of the use of ads entirely.

If this is your biggest dependent for driving revenue, what happens now? Unless you’ve embraced the philosophy of foul weather leadership and are prepared to adapt and face the tough conditions, the market will swallow you whole.

You Always Fall Back On Your Level Of Preparation

As the military saying goes: under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you fall back on your level of training. Very few people, if any, can actually increase their regular performance beyond the norm in the face of crisis.

More often than not, people and teams are able to remain cool and collected in the face of adversity and persist as if the crisis or pressure situation does not exist. They separate themselves through high performance while others crumble under pressure, this is what allows them to stay above when everyone else was not prepared for the grueling conditions of foul weather to arrive.

As Kobe Bryant alludes in his book The Mamba Mentality it’s not about making the “clutch shot”, a big shot is just another shot.

The following is an excerpt from Kobe’s book:

"People make a huge deal out of clutch shots. Thing is, it’s just one shot. If you make a thousand shots a day, it’s just one of a thousand. Once you’re hitting that many, what’s one more? That was my mentality from day one.

…Once you have the rock the rock, you always have to know who is guarding you. You have to not just know, but know and I knew Rip Hamilton’s defensive strategy. Rip was very fundamentally sound and played you straight up. He didn’t do much out of the ordinary, which can be fine. Fundamentally sound, though, was not going to stop me.

 

So I sized him up, kepts all that information in mind, and made him do what I wanted him to do. I dragged the ball over to the wing, rocked him back, and rose up, knowing that he would only raise his arms to contest. At that point it’s just about whether I make the shot or not."

When the moment comes and the pressure is the greatest, the preparation of that moment may have began years ago, and that’s why you were prepared for it.

People make a very big deal over these clutch shots, in essence, it’s nothing more than another rep that’s been done in preparation for live action. The same way you outline your business plan, marketing strategy, and study the competition, before you get ready to launch.  

Be prepared for whatever the competition throws at you

You must have contingencies in place for when the unexpected shows up, that way the unexpected is already anticipated.

You must continue to ask, “What do I do if…?”

You must envision the future so vividly in detail – creatively, logically, and intelligently – so that the unforeseeable becomes foreseeable. Then you develop your plans.

Once you have a list of plans, namely, ‘tools’ or contingency plans, you can then outline your own script. This script become your plan A. When the foul weather shows up, you don’t have to worry about “rising to the occasion” you can fall back on your level of training, your plans B, C, D, E, etc. that you developed through rigorously asking  “What do I do if…?”.

Your game plan is now no longer just a specific game plan based upon what you hope happens, it’s a flexible blueprint that you can use to navigate through the trenches of business, uncertainty, stress of competition, and volatility of the marketplace.

You can refer to yourself “If one kind of storm rolls in, we fall back on our training, and we do this. If another kind of storm rolls in, we fall back on our training, and we do that”.

Every organization, sports, health services, consulting, etc. must recognize they have the power to be adaptive to change, and can remain stable when the “foul weather” conditions arrive.

Situations can change so quick, and yet so often, nobody can afford to be trapped into one way of thinking or doing things. You must prepare all employees, players, subordinates, to be able to handle the foul weather conditions, and to be able to adapt or overcome the circumstances that come with it.

Foul weather leadership is not a robotic system, it’s a flexible blueprint that allows you to navigate through the uncertainty of the business world. It gives you authority to prepare for everything, and be prepared for anything.

In a highly competitive and uncertain world, organizations must be tenacious in their vision of their futures and developing their own flexible blueprint to get there. Thus, they are able to navigate in the heaps of battle, and dominate in their respective fields.

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