John Addison: The 5 A’s of Leading Through Adversity

UPDATED: May 9, 2019
PUBLISHED: September 14, 2015

There’s no doubt that it’s easier to lead during good times, when it seems like no matter what you do, your team is succeeding and the company is growing. But you’ll never grow more as a leader than when you lead during the bad times.

Related: 15 Trust-Building Practices for Leaders

But every leader will, at some point, have to guide their team through crisis. When faced with a tough situation, it’s normal to react in frustration. And while it’s fine to vent to a peer outside of the group you’re leading, don’t let anger characterize how you interact with your team. Instead, walk through the five A’s of leading under pressure and through adversity:

1. Assess.

Assess the situation quickly and honestly. Seek to truly understand the root of the situation.

2. Ask.

To understand what the root is, you’re going to have to determine what questions need to be asked. Here are some good ones to get started:

What are the facts?
Are we doing something wrong?
Or are we doing everything right, and this is just how things turn out when we do it this way?
Do we have a cultural problem? Are we systematicallydoing things the wrong way?
What is the truth?

3. Associate.

When examining the situation, associate with people in every level of the organization. It’s tempting in a crisis to ask for feedback from just those who report to you. But to be frank, those are the people most likely to tell you what you want to hear, so talk to a broader group of people. Meet with people in the organization and talk with them. You’ll discover more about the root of the problem and create a level of trust.

4. Articulate.

While you’re connecting with the group to get feedback, it’s important to clearly articulate the values the company holds, the environment you’re trying to create and the culture you want to have.

5. Act.

Articulating those intentions isn’t enough, though. You have to also take appropriate action. Fix the things that need to be fixed. If there are parts of the culture to modify or improve, things that you should change or do better, then deal with them.

Related: How to Figure Out What Kind of Leader You’ll Be

John Addison is the Leadership Editor for SUCCESS and the author of Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose, a Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller. Renowned for his insight and wisdom on leadership, personal development and success, John is a sought-after speaker and motivator. Read more on his blog, and follow John on Facebook and Twitter.