It’s been a week since the bail-out plan was announced. The Dow crashed, recovered, then went down again. The House will try to vote again today, maybe. The candidates argued, the VP candidates debated, and the pundits analyzed. All the while, the world is waiting.
Actually, at this point, it matters very little if the package is good, bad, or neutral. This is one of those situations where something is better than nothing. As one Democrat once scolded his own party, in the absence of any leadership, people will follow any one who leads, including George Bush.
For people who sit on top of organizations with big titles that include C’s (we call them C-Level executives), are you leading or are you managing? Are you cutting costs or are you inspiring? Do you unleash the talent of your people or do you reign them in? Are you looking at recent events as new opportunities for your company to capture market share, or perhaps looking to buy troubled businesses? Or are you going to hibernate your way to survive?
These are tough times. And during the tough times, it takes a great leader to take the gamble to be different. Warren Buffet has announced new investments in Goldman Sachs last week and in GE this week. He’s not always right, but I’m not sure I’d like to bet against him. When everyone is selling, he’s making a bet that there are great deals to be had.
I blogged last week that someone is going to make a killing as a result of the bailout. Funds and Investors with the foresight will start assembling professionals who had experience in the 1990s real estate bubble. Companies that are smart will know that if they act like everyone else, they will fail like everyone else.
So what should the CEO do? I can think of at least three things (besides the obvious ones of securing credit, tightening your belt, and pray that your biggest customer doesn’t go bankrupt):
1) Make an investment in your people. Make sure you keep the best talent, but go out and bring in the talent that is starting to flood the marketplace.
2) Demand more from your people. Don’t make them work harder—make them work wiser. Is your staff the best trained and best performing team in your industry?
3) Learn to lead. Leadership doesn’t come from having a big title. It doesn’t come because you tell people what to do. And it is a myth that you lead organizations. You lead people
I have told many groups that Leadership is very much like sex and golf, for at least 3 reasons:
First, there are hundreds of books written about the subjects.
Second, you can enjoy the activities even if you’re very bad at it.
And third, a corollary to the second is that you always have a higher opinion of yourself in these activities than those around you.
So times may be bad, but since it’s tough to improve on two out of the three for most people, I hope that at least you will have a chance to improve your leadership skills.