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Leading in Turbulence: What Are the Right Questions to Ask?

July 29, 2009

Updated July 23, 2013

What can we learn from the fall-out and lingering effects of the Great Recession and financial meltdown when it comes to leadership? Stories abound, but one common theme that runs through the collapse of companies is that of arrogance and hubris. This is one of the lessons that Jim Collins explores in his book How the Mighty Fall. I’m a longtime fan of Collins, and his compact book sparked some thinking on my part on leadership.

In this post, I present a series of questions to contribute to the conversation on how should leadership be practiced in organizations in the future, and especially now given the vulnerable state of companies.

1) How will we know that we are on the right path to long-term success (or for those who like the word – sustainability)?

2) What types of new indicators (metrics) should be devised, especially since the traditional ones have encouraged short-term thinking?

3) Do we (through the eyes of senior leaders) wish to create a corporate culture of shared leadership? Can we walk the talk? And what are the new competencies to develop?

4) Does it matter – currently – that whatever forecasts and predictions we make are quickly obsolete due to Charles Handy’s ‘discontinuous change’ concept – that change occurs in unpredictable bursts?

4a) What should we do with all the economists? (couldn’t resist that one)

5) How can we make our organizations more resilient and adaptable to change?

6) What don’t we know that we should know, with respect to future challenges?

7) To address the concept of ‘what don’t we know that we don’t know,’how can managers prepare employees to make them more resilient and adaptable in order that our organizations are successful?

One important point to make is that the last question does not refer to making organizations bullet-proof. What has made my hair stand up on end in the past is statements by commentators that companies like Canadian Tire and Walmart are recession-proof. This is sheer folly. Arrogance and hubris lead to decline. History is littered with those companies that thought they were invincible.

Bad decisions made with good intentions, are still bad decisions.
– Jim Collins (from How the Mighty Fall)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 28, 2013 1:25 pm

    I agree with the blog. The ingredients of leading in turbulence are quite the same as inspired leadership. As I have mentioned in my blog today – Inspired leadership at – the characterisics of Inspirational leadership are: Vision, Passion, Courage and Authenticity.


  1. Tough-Assed Leadership: We Need More of This Stuff! « ChangingWinds

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