The number one action leaders should take to restore confidence in 2012 is to be open and honest about the nature and scale of the challenges ahead.
–Ketchum Leadership Communication

Journalist Fareed Zakaria wrote the book The Post-American World.  One area of concern that was addressed was the belief that organizations are not adapting well to emerging challenges. (This is only one of many themes but one we feel readily applies to leadership skills and styles).

Zakaria supplied the following guidelines for success:

Choose priorities rather than trying to have it all

Our comment:
Have clear goals, ensure all behaviors and tasks support those goals, and understand you can’t be everything to everyone.

Build broad rules, not narrow interests
Recommit to international institutions and mechanisms

Our comment:
Set goals and standards, and then let your people excel – they don’t need (or want) to be told HOW to do something, but they do need clear expectations and the desired outcome. Also, whenever possible, practice the old maxim of “Think globally; act locally”

Be Bismarck, not Britain
Maintain excellent relations with everyone, rather than offset and balance emerging powers

Our comment:
Build relationships, address differences in a healthy way, listen, and take more time to think of what “could” be done differently. Make an effort to relate and communicate to others in their terms and style. Not all relationships have a positive impact on your goals, but all relationships bring a learning opportunity.

Order à la carte
Address problems through a variety of different structures (e.g. sometimes UN, sometimes NATO, sometimes OAS)

Our comment:
Understand the needs and goals of others. What are their strengths? How do they best add value? What end result are you looking for?  Do you have the right resources in place?

Think asymmetrically
Respond to problems (e.g. drug cartels, terrorists, etc.) proportionately and do not respond to bait (i.e. small attacks meant to draw attention)

Our comment:
Expect and plan for conflict, be emotionally intelligent, know your hot buttons, remain controlled.  Think about what could de-rail you, and have a plan in place to address those challenges. Build strategies for win/win, as opposed to win/lose situations.

Legitimacy is power
Legitimacy creates the means to set agendas, define crises, and mobilize support

Our comment:
Leaders are authentic; they build trust, truly listen, communicate openly and consistently, and don’t have hidden agendas.  A complaint that we frequently hear is that leadership lacks integrity. Ensure your integrity and ethics show clearly and unambiguously in ALL circumstances. You can afford to lose a battle/case; you can’t afford to lose the trust of your team.

All professions, all industries, and all positions are faced with challenges. It’s up to us as leaders to help anticipate and respond to them before, or as they occur. We must maintain confidence levels, and communicate honestly about expectations and possible impacts. Things don’t always go as planned, but we can make a positive difference!