When we hire, appoint, or elect new leaders for our organizations and our government, we naturally are drawn to those who present an uplifting, optimistic vision for the future.
In the private sector, we look for leaders who can grow businesses profitably and imaginatively. In the non-profit sector, we look for leaders who can advance an important mission. In the public sector, we look for leaders who can create effective government agencies and public policies. In short, we have been conditioned to expect forward progress.
But reality can be hard on those expectations. When we face difficult times, as we do now, the leaders we need today may be less about lofty hopes and upward movement, and more about survival, sustainability, and keeping a steady hand at the helm in rough seas.
Very few people accept leadership positions with ambitions of “simply” holding things together. And even in difficult times, some organizations prosper, buoyed by outstanding leaders. But there are situations where keeping the bottom from falling out is a pretty darn good feat, and we should recognize that possibility.