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How leaders can succeed in a global economic crisis?


No one knew it was coming. No astrologer, no finance expert, no company, no country predicted or warned the world of the massive global economic crisis 2020 would bring.


Suddenly, the share market crashed, people began losing jobs overnight, and company executives were told to conserve the company’s cash if the financial contagion spread. The production rate at every company was slowing; sales were collapsing, many businesses were forced to shut down their warehouses and vertices.


In 2020, as I continued my executive coaching, most of the leaders I was talking with were either deeply worried or scared. Every executive I met asked me two critical questions -How bad is it now? How bad could it get? The answers were grim. A pandemic hit the world- yes, a real pandemic, the Co-vid 19 that swept the world by panic as people began to lose confidence in themselves, in their company, and everything around them. No one had ever seen such a vortex before in the business world. Some experts said it would take a year for the global economy to revive; others said it would take up to five.


However, I also found leaders who had begun to quickly re-shape their business and themselves to carry on through whatever hard time lay ahead. They were making rapid and new changes. They were preparing for growth and getting ready to enter new markets. Some are moving faster toward grabbing opportunities and serving customers in different ways.


What differentiates these few leaders from the majority? Why do some leaders emerge as game-changers amid any crisis? It's because these are the leaders who are in the leadership game to win.


There is a difference between just being in the leadership game and playing to win. Those who are in the game to simply play, are very concerned about their paycheck and job security. This group of leaders fear taking risks and are overly cautious. Most individuals involved in the corporate roles view the game as a ''I win you lose'' proposition. Most of us are playing the wrong game, working purely to position ourselves for a promotion.

Those leaders who play to win do whatever is necessary to move things forward. They're not reckless but proactive. Instead, they make the call that they fear and have that difficult conversation. They deal with the tricky issues that may put your outcomes at risk if things go south on you.


For you to emerge as a game-changer, you must know how to win the leadership game. Very few leaders wake up each morning with the will to win. Organizations need to train their people to play to win, no matter what. They must realize that winning has nothing to do with power, status quo, position, or corporate politics. Winning is purely about being relentless and moving ahead in the game by focusing on your improvement and the well-being of others. Winning is about having faith in yourself and your abilities. I’s about being anti-fragile and continuing playing the game with a will to win regardless of the economy or circumstance the business world gores through.


When hit by any business or economic crisis, the immediate challenge is to act quickly and decisively to prepare for the worst possible scenario. This means many leaders will have to bring about a huge change, a massive transformation in themselves. The question is, how many are ready to bring about this transformation in themselves? This readiness to transform is not simple. It takes effort, discipline, consistency, and is why we see few wins the leadership game every time.


Crisis shows the state of leadership inside the organization. At all levels, there's no shortage of raw talent. Companies are short on the quantity and quality of what I call – ‘transformed leaders’. We need to move beyond traditional leadership development practices to transformed leadership practices where people believe in their innate quality to lead. Only then can we see more people at every level of the organization deliver the best results, no matter what. It is then that every organization will succeed, and every individual will win at their game.


The rules of business are changing. The game is evolving with speed. New markets are emerging. A new generation of workforce is entering the game. One cannot play the new leadership game with old rules and competencies. Working with some great leaders has shown me how a leader can move with agility, speed, and flexibility to revamp the organization when faced with a business crisis. A leader's decisive and bold actions and their rapid and insightful response to crisis demonstrated the value of speed and serenity in setting a new course for their company.

What are the new rules and competencies? How do we play and win the leadership game every time? Many of the people playing the leadership game from the mid of the pyramid believe that their skill, talent, and hard work will get them to the top. And this thinking gets them more than often stuck where they are. It takes them years to move ahead in the direction they wish to. They become like a rat in the wheel, moving but getting to nowhere.


As work and organizations have become more fluid, strategy is no longer about planning years ahead. It’s all about sensing and seizing new opportunities and adapting to a constantly changing environment, you require a new and different playbook that helps you win your game. The immediate and most pressing challenge for a CEO today is to act quickly and decisively, and to prepare for the worst-possible scenario. They need to make decisions quicker than ever and in a very volatile business environment.


Here are a few questions to ask yourself and your teams so you know how to play to win.

1. What does winning the game mean to you?

2. Where will you play?

3. Do you have a winning strategy?

4. In what areas do you want to win?

5. Why do you want to win?


Imagine if every single day you woke up to win the leadership game. Then at the end of each day, you find yourself full of energy, newly inspired to deliver more, and freshly committed to what brought you into the corporate world in the first place. Wouldn't it be an amazing feeling to be a part of something larger than yourself, to make a difference, and to live a purposeful life while earning a great living?


Your Friend + Mentor

Payal Nanjiani


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