11 Principles Of Turnaround Leadership

How do you turn around your ailing organisation, or move out of the hole you find yourself in at this time? I will tell you how from a leadership perspective rather than a pure structural, restructuring, re-engineering or short term cost saving perspective.

These are the 11 principles you cannot ignore:

1. Emphasize an exciting, “impossible” future: Build the confidence of your people that they can achieve the “impossible”, by creating “impossible” aspirations (a vision) that provide a strong enough “opposite pole” to attitudinally draw them away from the “struggle pole”. You do this so that the day to day reality of struggling does not weigh heavier than the hope of an alternative and attractive position of something greater, and therefore the collective attitudinal scale has a greater chance of tipping towards a more attractive future.

2. Remember, the world does not stand still and wait for you to save your organization: Be tuned in to the socio-political, economic and technological change around you, and the speed at which this happens. In other words, don’t be so fixated on your challenging situation that you miss shifts in the broader society around you. If you don’t do this you may work tirelessly at immeasurable personal and organizational cost for nothing.

3. Make yourself vulnerable: Admit you really don’t know everything. Constantly, honestly and openly engage your team and others around, below and above you for input. Realize that all people in your organization are important, not to mention that even more “important” are those that work closest to the essence of your organization. Work tirelessly not to become far removed from those that matter most. Realize they need your wisdom and direction, while you honestly draw on their input, because you respect them. And when they give their input, listen, act!

4. Ask difficult questions: Ask the difficult questions on all levels of the organization that often make those around you uncomfortable. Make a conscious decision that knowing the factual truth, what the key constraints are, being respected, doing what’s right is most important, definitely more so than being liked or being popular.

5. Really care: You had better care deeply enough about the organization, as if it is your own. If you had to transfer the same level of caring to your own business, you should most likely possess the passion that a true entrepreneur possesses.

6. Don’t tolerate selfish leaders: During this period you cannot afford to tolerate selfish leaders around your boardroom table that care more about their own wealth generation and aspirations than they do about the organization and its people. You need to surround yourself with authentic individuals that have discovered themselves, refined their motives through hard life experiences.

7. Know how to create movement: Know consciously what it takes to create positive movement of an organization and people, so much so that should you have to lead another totally different organization you will probably succeed. Then work tirelessly to transfer this crucial skill to all levels of your organization. To turn around an organization in today’s challenging environment requires leaders on all levels to become movement specialists, not just the team at the top. Technical prowess is crucial during a turnaround phase, but do not make the mistake of believing it will take you further in your current leadership challenge and is more important to your success than your conscious ability to move your organization and people.

8. Don’t give up on values: Do not give up on the principle that values drive people’s behaviour, so strive tirelessly to create or keep your values driven culture. Don’t throw your own values or that of the organization out the window while you grind yourself through this difficult period.

9. Make difficulty your friend: Adopt and promote a positive attitude towards resistance, challenges, problems, obstacles. You need to be fully convinced that these give meaning and purpose to movement; that it develops character of people and organizations; that a difficult time is in actual fact your friend.

10. Decide fast and act courageously: When you make decisions it must be fast, but it must be a universal process that you trust, and that involves important stakeholders. Don’t wait too long to act and do the difficult things. This takes courage.

11. Fight bureaucracy: Fight hard against bureaucracy, as if it is a plague. Find the balance between appeasing compliance to relevant procedures and systems, and delivering on the need for speedy decision making and movement. Push for a culture of value creation and positive movement rather than one of compliance.

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Louis has been fanatically endeavoring to uncover universal leadership principles and models for longer than most of us have been alive. He is an author, leadership expert, father, grandfather, and the Co-Founder of Leadership Platform.

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022
Email: info@leadershipplatform.com

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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