Living and Leading in Turbulent Times
by Fred Kusch

Most anyone you talk to today expresses concern about the uncertainty of the times we are living and working in. I share the same concerns. I have found that when I feel stress like this, it is important to take action, not just sit still, and "stress out." If a leader does not take a real, positive and personal proactive stance his followers, family, friends and employees all are affected and most often negatively.

The views of several colleagues and acquaintances, who are widely recognized as top-notch leaders, are blended with mine to help you lead and live in these turbulent times.

First, a leaderís action mindset is essential. If you want to predict your future take action to invent it for yourself and those you affect. Anything less is simply "tinkering" with and potentially endangering your future. In order to do this you have to live with risk and embrace the idea and feeling of uncertainty. You also must welcome and encourage diverse viewpoints to challenge you and help formulate your plans for action. In addition, this will help develop your ability to anticipate what is coming around the corner. By involving others in developing your vision of action, you will build trust, confidence and will be able to share your vision to negotiate the challenges as they confront you.

Second, insist on getting a strong return on your investment of time, energy, brainpower and commitment in turbulent times. Develop an attitude and expectation for yourself and those you lead that whatever you or they choose to do should add value to your work or life. When you take on new approaches or actions, ask these questions. What can be dispensed with? What value are you protecting by hanging on to the old? If you can't answer that question positively and focus it's support on your shared vision and mission, stop doing it. Get as much value as you can from all you do, be it quality or quantity time for what is important at work, your family, or your health, etc.

Third, be responsive. Be flexible. Be a continuous learner. Be fluid and go with the flow as opposed to fighting and resisting the current. As George Carlin once said, "Don't sweat the petty stuff and don't pet the sweaty stuff." Simply put, do not win the battles only to lose the war! Let go!

Fourth, consider generational issues. Look in the mirror; we're not getting any younger. I don't know about you but there are mornings that I wonder who that is looking back at me. You can't be 22 anymore and 75 is probably still a ways down the road but while you aren't and can't be older or younger than you are, learn from those who are either. Their respective life experience will enrich yours and together you will and can create a power force, especially if you accentuate the positive in what you all have to offer.

Fifth, take the stage; don't wait in the wings. More than ever before we need leaders of all colors to step up and take action, but not just for themselves and their own agenda. While taking care of oneself is paramount, we will all be better served when as Americans we turn back to the value of what is for common good or the public interest. Individual, narrow or single agenda approaches to the challenges we are facing in business, government and everyday life will cause us to perish, ethically, spiritually, emotionally and God forbid possibly even physically. As leaders we need to address the complexity of these turbulent times with the strength of our common values and vision for the future and not on what separates us and tears us apart. If we look closely, there is more that unites us at the office, in our schools, communities and homes than what does not.

Take action, listen to voices of diversity, find commonality, don't focus on diversity, and find value in your action and that of those you lead. These are turbulent times, like Dorothy "We are not in Kansas anymore." Be positive, be committed, take action and make a difference for the common good and your interests will be served.

Fred Kusch is an internationally known speaker, consultant, leadership and management coach, and author. Contact him with your comments and questions at JFK Associates, 608-787-5771 or and visit .

Many more articles in Executive Performance in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2003 by Fred Kusch. All rights reserved.

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