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7 Business Leadership Traits: How to Lead During Times of Adversity

Brian Cristiano Sep 10, 2021

As a business leader, honestly ask yourself right now if you believe that your team could come out on the other side of an adverse situation better than they were before it.

If your answer is no, then your business team could be missing out on the golden opportunities that adversity creates. 

Adverse situations are the breeding ground for both business success and failure.  They are golden opportunities yet debilitating setbacks.

As a leader, you can get your team to be the group that not only overcomes adversity, but owns it!

To do that, you need to follow these 7 characteristics of effective leadership on a regular basis, but especially during times of crisis.

Leadership is important at any time, but it can be the deciding factor between survival and failure in an intense situation.

You never know when a new challenge will come about.  So, start developing self-awareness of your current leadership skills, then integrate these 7 traits into your leadership strategy!

 

What Are The 7 Leadership Traits & Why Are They Important During Adversity?

 

Every successful business leader has their own unique leadership style, yet they all display each of these 7 leadership skills:

  1. Keeping things in perspective
  2. Integrity
  3. Open-mindedness
  4. Non-Toxic Positive attitude
  5. Self-Confidence
  6. Handling criticism well
  7. Leading by example

They make use of these business qualities and skills especially when their company faces a challenging phase ahead of them.

The main goal that these business traits try to accomplish is to get the team members to realize that challenging circumstances are pure potential energy for business.

Adversity is neither good or bad until someone puts a label on it.

What these characteristics of effective leadership do is show to the business team members that adversity is opportunity just waiting to be taken advantage of.

When viewed in the right frame, adverse situations are even better for growth than the normal business climate! 

There is never a more important time for leaders to flex their leadership skills than during adverse situations, because one of three things could happen to the business:

  1. It thrives in the challenging environment
  2. It skates by without having taken advantage of the moment
  3. The business doesn't survive the circumstances

Will your company be one the one that rises above and beyond the adverse occasion?

 

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1. Keepings Things in Perspective

 

How many times have you turned on your TV or opened your phone to the News app to see “breaking news” splashed in bold letters across the bottom of the screen?

If you’re on your device everyday, then you probably see the message at least once per day!

The truth is, there is always going to be breaking news over a new supposed threat.  There will always be a new headline that could convince even the most rational person that hard times are around the corner or a tragedy is headed this way.

The majority of the time, these so-called threats end up being only a small fraction as impactful as they were projected to be.

And, effective business leaders understand this.

Effective leaders always put a situation into perspective before they go ahead and label it as adversity.  Moreover, they don’t freak out over the first sign of danger.

And, if they do end up recognizing a legitimate challenge on the horizon, business leaders do not panic.

Instead, they immediately frame the situation in terms of how it could benefit the company.

Because business is born out of solving problems, adverse circumstances are the perfect opportunity for the business to climb to new heights!

Business leaders maintain a sharp perspective on their situation.  Before they call a situation adverse, they assess the real threat of it.  And, if they do find one, they put it into a perspective of how it could help their company be better!

 

2. Integrity

 

Challenging times have a way of either bringing out the best or the worst in people, including business leaders.

In difficult territory, leaders can either rise to the occasion to become a better leader, or succumb to the situation and slash their moral principles.

Business leaders with integrity are the ones who rise to the occasion.

Leaders with integrity maintain high moral principles, including honesty and incorruptibility.  They don't let go of their morality, even when in a challenging situation.

Why is integrity so important, especially in adverse times?

It comes down to one central principle: Reputation.

When a leader breaks their moral principles, it opens up the floodgates of potential bad reputation.

Having a bad reputation can do several negative things for a business leader and their company, including:

  1. Creating a culture of mistrust
  2. Ruining chances of b2b relationships
  3. Creating a mockery of their vision

First off, imagine being a business team member working hard to get through a challenging period.  Teamwork is at the best it has ever been, and you are confident that you all will get through things.

Then one day, you find out that your boss has been misleading you all about the outlook of the company, or that they lied about how well the company is performing.

All of a sudden, you are questioning everything that the boss says.  It only makes sense to question things given that they acted unusually immoral.

Before you know it, your teammates are anxious about whether or not they will keep their jobs and you don’t know if you should trust your boss anymore.

A business leader being honest with their team is one thousand times better than lying to them, even if it is hard news to deliver.  Poor integrity even once can manifest in an entire culture of mistrust.

Second, if prospects hear that you have a reputation for dishonesty and corruption, you can say goodbye to any potential deal with them in the future.

Business relationships are built on one thing: Trust.

If prospects think that there is reason to believe that they can’t build trust with you, then your odds of convincing them to buy your product or service are close to zero.

Lastly, business leaders understand that their business is very much a reflection of themselves.

Therefore, when they act with little integrity, it reflects on their business and its vision just as much as it does on them as individuals.

It’s a big slap in the face to the impactful vision that they and their team worked so hard to create.  That label of dis-integrity will be glued to the company’s name.

In the end, lacking integrity can lead to potential devastation for the business leader, their team, and their company at large.  Even in difficult times, strong business leaders do not neglect their integrity.

 

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3. Open-Mindedness

 

No great leader is ever married to their beliefs.

While they stand firm in their beliefs, they aren't so closed-minded that they can't ever tweak their course, modify their thoughts, or change their ideas if necessary.

With that said, all great leaders are open-minded.

They understand that their beliefs about things aren't necessarily the best, most accurate, or even remotely close to correct.

Because they aren't married to their beliefs, they are like sponges soaking in different types of information from all sources.  This is what makes them strong leaders.

The more information they take in, the more effective leaders they become, the happier their team is, and the better business results they see.

During times of adversity, being open-minded is of the utmost importance.

Challenging situations often call for unnerving changes.  However, this is easy for good leaders to manage because they are always prepared to adjust the course if something calls for it.

The best leaders stay open-minded in order to be prepared to make necessary changes that better the entire company.

Here are three ways that effective leaders practice open-mindedness:

  1. Being receptive to their team's feelings
  2. Using their team's ideas
  3. Testing different ideas out

First off, effective leaders are always receptive to what their team members are feeling.

It doesn't take adverse or challenging times to make them want to pay attention.

This requires a certain level of emotional intelligence, because, most of the time people don’t blurt out exactly what they are feeling.

Therefore, business leaders are always studying how things like body language reveal what someone is really feeling.  

Additionally, they take steps to develop a more trusting culture in the company so that people feel more open to discuss their feelings.

Second, in a similar way business leaders are receptive to their team members' ideas.

They understand that there is a reason why they hired them in the first place: Because they believed that they brought something positive to the work environment.

Therefore, business leaders are constantly seeking out the opinions, inputs, and perspectives of their team members.

As a result, their team takes more ownership in their work AND company results level up.

Lastly, effective leaders are always experimenting.  

If they feel something is off, they test new tactics out.

They open themselves up to new ideas, and then aren't afraid to put them to work.  Even during less-challenging times, they are always seeking out ways to level up.

During adverse situations, business leaders use their ‘sponge’ quality to overcome any hurdles in their way.

 

4. Positivity, But Not Toxic Positivity

 

If times are particularly challenging for whatever reason, having a positive, can-do attitude is essential.

However, being so positive that you ignore the obvious problems in the room fosters a toxic work environment, and ultimately leads to poor performance.  This kind of ignorance in the name of positivity is known as toxic positivity.

There is a fine line between positivity and toxic positivity.

Positivity looks like:

  • Choosing to look on the bright side of things
  • Motivating others to keep pushing towards their goals
  • Hyping people up with humor, balance, and positive self-talk

Toxic positivity looks like: 

  • Choosing to look on the bright side without acknowledging the uphill challenges 
  • Motivating others to keep pushing forward when they are clearly headed in the wrong direction
  • Hyping people up when you know that what they need is something completely different

The key difference between positivity and toxic positivity is this: 

When you have a positive attitude, you confront your demons and then strategically press forward with a positive mindset.  On the other hand, toxic positivity is when you overlook all of the demons and press on with nothing but positivity.

The best business leaders understand that being positive does not mean ignoring challenges.  

Rather, it means recognizing those challenges, being strategic about them, and then choosing to move forward with a positive attitude.  It isn’t always easy, but it’s the best thing to do!

In the end, toxic-positivity creates:

  • Even more issues
  • Anxiety 
  • Mis-trust amongst team members

If you and your team are facing challenging times, be a true leader and address them.  Don’t leave a large elephant in the room.

Then, once you come up with a way to address those challenges, be positive yourself and use effective communication skills to influence your team to do the same.

 

5. Self-Confidence

 

Lack of self-confidence is the single most detrimental attribute a business leader can have, whether it’s normal times or tough times.  

If a leader lacks self-confidence, they, their team, and their business cannot reach their full potential.

Why?

Because, self-confidence is a reflection of how strongly a leader believes in their vision.  And, the vision of the company is 90% of what makes it a company in the first place.

Moreover, strong business leaders are confident in themselves, their abilities, and their team’s abilities to achieve goals because they are confident in their company’s grander purpose.

When they believe in their “why”, that manifests into belief everywhere else.

Having self-confidence has many side-effects that are particularly beneficial during times of adversity, including:

  1. Making the “why” even stronger
  2. Increasing sales performance
  3. Boosting team member moral

First off, there is nothing like a good challenge to put a business leader’s commitment to their vision to the test.

Truly strong leaders only become more confident in their vision the more tough things get.

They understand that challenging times call for the best solutions, like the one that their company delivers!

Therefore, they see those times as opportunities for their vision to make an even greater impact than it could before!

Second, prospects need solutions the most during tough times.  Not only that, but the odds that their morale is low is much higher than usual.

When prospects see and feel that a business leader is highly confident in their vision, it becomes infectious to them.  They can literally feel the positive energy radiating and they want it.

All of a sudden, prospects naturally gravitate towards the leader.

That natural gravitation opens the door for the business leader to increase sales in what could have been a detrimental time.

Lastly, confidence infects not only the prospects, but the entire business team.

When a business leader is truly confident that things will go well, their team can sense it.

While it may take them some time to get on board the confidence train, it certainly will happen when they realize that confidence is the thing that will improve the situation.

Effective business leaders take their self-confidence to the next level during adverse times.  Because, unlike others, they know that adversity = opportunity.

 

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6. Turn Criticism Into a Positive

 

All business leaders understand that the business world is exceedingly difficult to navigate, even during "normal" times. 

And then when adversity comes knocking at the door, they know that it becomes even more difficult. 

Not only that, but they understand that their team members all look to them for guidance and to have the proper decision-making system.

With that said, no successful leader is perfect, and they know that.  They are aware that, even if their business does survive the adverse time, the odds that they make a mistake every so often is high.

Therefore, successful business leaders all learn how to handle criticism over their mistakes with grace.  Even more than that, they know how to turn their criticism into a force for good.

Whether constructive or downright negative and unconstructive, they learn how to listen to their criticism and turn it into something positive.

​​​​When given constructive feedback, leaders take it to heart.  They do not take it personally, but it does mean a lot to them. 

After receiving the criticism, they put themselves in the shoes of their critic to try and understand their perspective.

Regardless of how difficult it is to hear, they gain empathy for their critic’s concerns.  Then, they use it to come up with legitimate changes that will resolve the issue.

When given unconstructive feedback, strong leaders work even harder to try and understand the perspective of their critic.

When someone goes off on a leader, they understand that what their critic is saying is usually a reflection of some deeper emotional issue that is boiling over.

Sometimes, the emotional issues are that of a naysayer or hater.  Other times, they are that of a supporter who has simply held their issues in for too long and allowed them to heat up too high.

True leaders know the difference between the naysayer and the person who is simply struggling with their emotions.

Once they identify who they are dealing with, they break down the situation: If it’s a hater, they ignore the criticism.  If it’s a person who has simply boiled over, they work diligently to get to the core of their issue.

Strong leaders take the unconstructive criticism, uncover the emotions motivating it, and then figure out what is causing those emotions to heat up.

At first what may have appeared like a temper tantrum turned out to be a legit issue that needed to be addressed.

Effective leaders take criticism seriously at all times, but especially when the going is tough.  Oftentimes, the criticism ends up being the launchpad out of the tough situation.

 

7. Leading By Example

 

Last but not least, when the going gets tough, business leaders get going.

They know that their team is stressed, the news is bleak, and their forecasts look dull, but they still show up everyday and do what they need to do.

Moreover, business leaders lead their teams through challenging times with their example.

They spend some time talking, and way more time doing.  And while they are doing, they keep their spirits high because they know it will influence their team to keep going as well.

There are many ways to lead by example, but the most important ones include:

  • Maintaining a high work-ethic
  • Staying focused
  • Keeping morale high

First off, if you believe that leadership is all about telling people what to do, banish the thought.

Anyone in a leadership position must understand that they have to be the hardest worker on the team.

The best business leaders are the first ones in the office and the last ones to leave.

At the end of the day, you can have the best vision and smartest team on the planet, but nobody will ever know unless you work on it!

Effective leaders continue to show up everyday in order to get things done themselves and to show their team what it takes to get to the top, especially during adversity.

Second, leaders don't let troubling times distract them.

While everyone else is wallowing in troubles, they keep their focus on strategic thinking.  They don't ignore the troubles, they just don't let them consume their mind. 

Their decisiveness helps draw the team back to the mission.  With more energy on the mission, progress can ensue.

Lastly, effective leaders keep their morale high.  Regardless of the circumstances, their enthusiasm for what they do does not die off.

As we already talked about, that enthusiastic energy is infections.  It draws people in.

When the team sees that their leader has high enthusiasm, they will gravitate towards them and mimic that same energy.

In the end, it does not matter what someone in a leadership role says if they do not back up their words with action. True leaders' actions match their words, and they use that as fuel to push through challenges.

 

Final Thoughts on Leadership In Business Traits

 

The future of your business rests on your own leadership development.

You never know when tides will shift and you will need to lead your team over the next major hurdle.

Your business is a reflection of you, so start training yourself right now in order to have a better and more prepared team down the line.

Adversity is guaranteed, but what's not guaranteed is survival.  Will your business come out on the other side?